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5/13/2013 10:00:00 PM
Why be a teacher? County's top educators for 2013 chime in
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
John Colgan teaches math at Glassford Hill Middle School in Prescott Valley. Colgan was honored by the Yavapai County Education Foundation as the 2013 Outstanding First-Year Teacher in Yavapai County.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
John Colgan teaches math at Glassford Hill Middle School in Prescott Valley. Colgan was honored by the Yavapai County Education Foundation as the 2013 Outstanding First-Year Teacher in Yavapai County.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Penny Nicholas teaches kindergarten students at Washington Traditional School in Prescott. Nicholas was honored by the Yavapai County Education Foundation as the Outstanding Grades PreK-3 teacher in Yavapai County.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Penny Nicholas teaches kindergarten students at Washington Traditional School in Prescott. Nicholas was honored by the Yavapai County Education Foundation as the Outstanding Grades PreK-3 teacher in Yavapai County.
Lisa Irish
The Daily Courier

As John Colgan reviewed math problems with his seventh-grade class at Glassford Hill Middle School in Prescott Valley, he asked them what the absolute value of -3 was.

One student answered three, but another asked why, so Colgan asked for a definition from another student, listened, and said it was right. Then Colgan drew a number line that ranged from -3 to +3 and drew three hoops from zero to end on -3.

"Absolute value is the distance the number is from zero," Colgan said. "Since distance is always a positive number, that's why -3 or +3 have the same absolute value. They're both three units from zero."

Yavapai County Education Foundation honored Colgan as the 2013 Yavapai County Outstanding First-Year Teacher, and several other local teachers during an awards ceremony Friday night.

As an engineering student Colgan tutored at Yavapai College's learning center and learned how much he loves to teach.

"I really enjoy helping people figure it out and helping to explain it," Colgan said.

Teachers never teach anything just once, Colgan said.

"We go back and re-teach it for a second, third, and fourth time," Colgan said. "You want to teach from a different starting point or technique each time to see if you can make it more hands on or more visual."

Prescott High School social studies teacher Melissa Townsend, who's taught seven years, was honored as Outstanding High School Teacher.

"There are very few jobs out there where you get to impact the lives of young people," Townsend said. "I feel blessed to be in a profession where I can tell and show kids how amazing they are."

Townsend said she believes in students' abilities, encourages them, and uses technology to help them master concepts and build on what they've learned.

"I am a big proponent of a technology infused-classroom, where technology enhances the learning process and encourages student engagement," Townsend said. "Students can accomplish amazing things when faced with high expectations and instructional supports."

Townsend, who also coaches girl's basketball at Prescott High School, said teaching lets her focus on her passions - history and basketball.

"When I was in college I recognized that if I really wanted to be a mom, being an FBI agent, which I had always wanted to be, wasn't very conducive," Townsend said. "I was getting college paid for on a basketball scholarship, and also knew that I didn't want to give up sports after I was done playing."

Penny Nicholas, who's taught kindergarten 45 years at Washington Traditional School in Prescott, was honored as Outstanding Pre-K through Third-Grade Teacher.

"It's fantastic with this age group to see them grow and mature through the year," Nicholas said. Kindergartners read, count, do math, have good penmanship, and write stories others can read."

As kindergartners finished writing and drawing in their journals, Nicholas stood beside each student's desk, working one-on-one, listening to their stories about the Mother's Day Tea they hosted, and asking questions.

"My youngest son, who graduated with his M.A. summa cum laude, credits her with giving him a strong start in kindergarten," Washington Principal Harold Tenney said.

Nicholas said she's been blessed to teach three generations of students, develop strong relationships with peers, students, and parents, and thanks volunteers for all they do.

"They do so much," Nicholas said. "I never could do what I do without them. Co-workers and administration here are just phenomenal."

Each year, before high school graduation, Nicholas puts together a flyer of her former students' kindergarten and graduation pictures, takes it to them, and tells them she's proud to see them graduate, Tenney said.

"She's touched so many students' hearts," Tenney said.

The Yavapai County Education Foundation also honored Laura Russo, who teaches at Bradshaw Mountain Middle School in Prescott Valley, as Outstanding Cross-Grades Teacher; Nate Groves of Bagdad High School as the Outstanding Small District Teacher; and, Bonny Smith of Big Park Community School in Sedona-Oak Creek, as the Outstanding Fourth-Eighth Grade Teacher. Smith also was named the overall 2013 Yavapai County Teacher of the Year.

Russo and Groves were unavailable for comment; Smith was featured in a story Sunday.

Related Stories:
• Bonny Smith of Sedona wins Teacher of the Year award
• Sedona-Oak Creek's Smith named top teacher in Yavapai County; 1st-year teacher award goes to HUSD's Colgan


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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: @ SB or BS

You wrote, "more valuable then someone starting out." I have problems with my students and "Then vs. Than". I see where they get this confusion.

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: M K

You wrote, "more valuable then someone starting out." I have problems with my students and "Then vs. Than". I see where they get this confusion.

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: S B or BS

Thinking maybe you might want to start using a library that isn't just made up of paperbacks donated by the residents. Little less cable news and a little more time with kids and their parents might help with your assimilation.
No offense intended, but this town is full of retired, or spouses of retired folks who come here believing someone ending a career is more valuable then someone starting out.
Post Office, Attorneys, Police, Fire, Forrest Service,...teachers, all seem to want to come here, be full time, but work part time, all the time talking about how great they were.


Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: Retiring High School Teacher

The Principal just left my room, I was asked (ordered) to accept an assignment due Sept. '12 to aid the child in graduating. A HS diploma in AZ is worth less than the paper on which it is printed.

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: @fed up Tax Payer

I wish I had a June, July, and August vacation. Possibly I could secure a summer job to offset my salary.

June: One week seminar in Phoenix on new curriculum. Cost shared 50/50 with district. No compensation.

July: Three day seminar Special Education Laws in Orange County, CA. ALL EXPENSES, including $400 seminar cost borne by ME. No Compensation.
August: Back to teaching...
Fed Up--If you knew of what you were offering an opinion on, you would have no opinion.


Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: Lisa Cole

Congratulations John on realizing your dream to become a teacher! I had the privilege to be tutored by John at Yavapai College during some of my math classes. His students are fortunate to have him and his awesome math skills.

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: @ Fed up taxpayer

School starts in August - teachers report back next school year on July 31st.

If you are going to bash teachers for a well deserved summer break (most of which is spent working at fast food restaurants or doing continuing education, or both) at least get your facts correct.

There is no such thing as a 3 month summer for teachers (or kids) around here.


Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Bravo! Bravo! It saddens me to know the teachers will be entering a seventh year in the fall without a raise. Dedication is one thing but being treated well is also called for.

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: S B

I came from out of state with my husband over 15 yrs ago. He was retired and I had spent almost 20 yrs teaching in a superb high school in our home state.
I came to Prescott, was hired to work for PUSD.
After my first year with PUSD, I decided that I could no longer lie. I was visited by administrators and counselors where I was forced to pass students regardless of their effort because of who their parents were. Being told by administrators to "Be a team player and get my graduation numbers "right".
Teaching in an Arizona public school was a shock. It is no wonder why Arizona is near the bottom of the country and the country is near the bottom internationally.


Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: Fed Up Taxpayer !

And the real answer is: June, July and August.

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Article comment by: Been to War: taught Middle School.

I prefer War!! Looking at the picture I see a brave man in Mr. Colgan!

The caption says he's teaching math.

Actually, he gets to babysit someone's disrespectful children!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, fess-up! Who's little girl is sleeping in the back? Who little boy is turning around disrupting his lesson?

Thank you, Mr. Colgan!!<...




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