Humboldt Unified School District Holds Teacher of the Year Awards

12 March 2017
(Top) Bradshaw Mountain Middle School student Reannon Gist reads her essay for English Teacher Diane Hamilton. (Bottom) Liberty Traditional School Fourth Grade Teacher Albert Zalfini smiles with his student Katherine Zuniga, who nominated him. Both teachers took home the Humboldt Unified School District "Teacher of the Year" Award at the Prescott Resort on Thursday, March 9th, 2017 in Prescott, Arizona All Photos by: Torrence Dunham
Bradshaw Mountain Middle School English Teacher Diane Hamilton and Liberty Traditional School Fourth Grade Teacher Albert Zalfini Take Home Humboldt Unified School District's "Teacher of the Year" Awards

PRESCOTT- Ten teachers who won the “Teacher of the Year” award at their individual schools filled a room at the Prescott Resort on Thursday night, surrounded by fellow members of the district and board. At the end of the night, two teachers-one from the K-6 group and one from the 7-12 grades-would take home the coveted “Humboldt Unified School District Teacher of the Year” award.

“These teachers dedicate days, hours, weeks to teaching these students,” said Humboldt Unified School District Board of Directors President Marnie Uhl who presented the K-6 award. “What we’re doing here by recognizing them is telling them that we value you, we think you are important.”

Students from each school wrote an essay about why their favorite teacher should be honored with the “Teacher of the Year” award. After each teacher won at their individual school, the essays were judged by members of the school district. At the awards dinner, the students read their letters on stage as the appreciative teachers stood behind.

Coyote Springs Elementary School’s kindergartener Gavyn Williams nominated his teacher Adrienne Houston. Makayla Rivera supported her teacher Jennifer Mraz of Granville Elementary. Humboldt Elementary’s Deb Galliers was nominated by her student Lillian Crile. Lisa Burk of Lake View Elementary had the honor of being nominated by her student Vanessa Bugarin. Fourth-grade student Katherine Zuniga of Liberty Traditional School wrote about her teacher Albert Zalfini. Tammy Hewston of Mountain View Elementary School was honored by her student Ashley Albrect.

Glassford Hill Middle School’s Erika Dahm was nominated by her student Ave’ona Price while English teacher Diane Hamilton of Bradshaw Mountain Middle School was honored by her student Reannon Gist.

Bradshaw Mountain High School’s Sara Willer wrote about her teacher Sheryl Minarik.

The last to speak was Nicholas Fuerst who honored his teacher James Thompson from the Humboldt Unified School District special education department.

“I’m obviously very proud of all the teachers in our district,” Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Daniel Streeter said. “Tonight we honored just ten tremendous individuals, teachers that go above and beyond.”

“It was great to hear that from the student’s perspective because it’s easy for me to say that but you heard it from the lives that they impact every day,” Streeter continued.

Once all the speeches had been completed, it was announced that Zalfini and Hamilton were to be Humboldt Unified School District’s 2017 “Teachers of the Year”.

“I was shocked when I just found out that I was “Teacher of the Year” for my school because I think everybody, all of my colleagues, do a really great job as well,” said Zalfini who has taught at Liberty Elementary for three years. “I just feel proud of my students, my colleagues and of myself too.”

“It does make me feel like what I do matters,” Zalfini continued.

Zalfini helped Zuniga become a better writer, allowing her to pen a letter which netted Zalfini the award.

“I wouldn’t be able to make that letter without his persistence on helping me write better,” said Zuniga who had Zalfini during his first year teaching. “He told me that every subject you do in school, it helps you in the future-in your daily life.”

“He has helped me be successful,” Zuniga continued.

Meanwhile, Hamilton is enjoying her fourth year teaching, third at Bradshaw Mountain Middle School. When listening to Gist speak, Hamilton realized how much impact she has on young lives.

“She said a lot of really nice things about me and it makes you realize that you kind of do have an impact on kids, that they are watching you and they are listening to you all the time,” Hamilton said in a phone interview on Friday. “She mentioned the part about that I always have a smile on my face-and I don’t even realize that-I guess I just do.”

“This is kind of nice confirmation that I’m actually doing something right and that I am having an impact,” Hamilton continued.

Considering Thursday night had the largest attendance in the award’s history, Streeter considered the festivities a grand success.

“Tonight was special,” Streeter said. “The room was beautiful, the energy was so positive-you could feel it- the flow of the evening was great and the kids did such a fantastic job reading their essays and sharing their admiration for their teachers with everybody in attendance.”

The awards will be presented in each teacher’s classroom over the next couple of days and during an assembly at the individual schools.

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