CLARKDALE - Three area teachers won honors and classroom grants through the Yavapai County Teacher of the Year competition.
Danny Watkins of Cottonwood Middle School won Cross Grade Teacher of the Year. Watkins has been the director and teacher of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District's Bridgeway Alternative program since 1999.
Clarkdale-Jerome School's second grade teacher Andrea Clark won Small School District Teacher of the Year.
Tyler Novak, Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Mingus Union High School, was a finalist.
Watkins and Clark each won $500 classroom grants, and Novak won a $250 grant.
Winners were announced during the recent Yavapai County Teacher of the Year banquet at the Prescott Resort.
Clarkdale-Jerome Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor wrote the nomination letter for Clark. She stated that Clark is an outstanding teacher who teaches her children the magic of reading, learning and achieving.
"Her students come to school excited about the activities they will be doing each day," Fleenor wrote, "They love their classroom books and are excited about the projects on which they are working. Andrea is a Yavapai County native who has taught second grade at Clarkdale-Jerome School for the past 14 years."
Clark said it was a "wonderful honor" to win Teacher of the Year in her category. She said it is a great honor to be nominated and recognized by the school administration and by her peers.
"I couldn't do this without peer teachers, the administration and the wonderful parents and students," Clark said.
Clark graduated from Northern Arizona University in December 1995. Half a year later, she started teaching first grade at Clarkdale-Jerome. After two years, she followed her class to second grade, where she has been teaching since.
She also earned a master's in education and also endorsements as a reading specialist and in early childhood development, as well as English as a second language.
"I love coming to work every morning," Clark said. "To me, it's not coming to work; it's coming to school."
She said she loves watching the excitement of the kids when they learn something new.
"I think I'm still as excited today as I was my first day of teaching," she said.
Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Superintendent Barbara U'Ren nominated Watkins for Cross Category Teacher of the Year for Yavapai County.
"Mr. Watkins' first position at Cottonwood-Oak Creek was as Success Class teacher," U'Ren wrote in part.
Success Class is a program for younger students who need a class where they can receive focused behavioral support.
"Mr. Watkins demonstrated an instinctive ability to reach children who otherwise had difficulty in the regular classroom," U'Ren stated.
U'Ren explained that Watkins was assigned to the Bridgeway Alternative Program because his talents were needed there. During the 13 years he has been assigned to Bridgeway, Watkins has developed a "very successful program for middle school students," according to U'Ren.
"He is successful because he understands the struggles that adolescents face and uses creative techniques to help them grasp the broader picture of their future," U'Ren stated.
"He readily appreciates each one's strengths and builds upon those strengths helping the child develop into a happy, healthy teenager," she wrote.
To reach the finalist stage of the annual competition, teachers are first nominated by their superintendent. After that, each nominated teacher fills out a packet with specific questions to answer. Then the three finalists in each category go through an interview process.
About 70 teachers were included in the Teacher of the Year competition this year in Yavapai County.