Two Verde Valley teachers won top education awards Friday during the Teacher of the Year banquet at the Prescott Resort, held by the Yavapai County Education Foundation, which gives the awards to the county's best teachers of the year nominated by their principals.
Robin Tankesley, a language arts teacher at Camp Verde Middle School, won the title of top 4th-8th-Grade Category Teacher and Eric Banuelos, who teaches agriculture at Mingus Union High School, was chosen the Outstanding First-Year Teacher.
Ash Fork High School math teacher, Sonny Martin, took the Foundation's top honors, Teacher of the Year. Martin
Paul Street, Ph.D., who served as the Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools for 16 years, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Foundation.
Additionally, the following teachers won top awards in their respective categories: Karen Sampson, team teaching in kindergarten and first grade at Washington Traditional School in Prescott, PreK-3rd-Grade category; Shannon Feipel a special education teacher at Heritage Middle School in Chino Valley, Cross-Grades Specialist category; and Jeaneen Leach, a 7th/8th-grade language arts teacher at Ash Fork Middle School, in the Small Districts category.
The audience of about 100 people watched videos on the three finalists in each category, in which Teacher of the Year Martin said, being loud in the classroom, one student said she thought he was mean, but learned he was a teddy bear inside. Martin said he sees himself in a similar way, as a "strict teacher who is very caring."
Banuelos stated in the banquet's program, "My love for cattle and agriculture as a whole fuels my passion to teach the next generation of agriculturalists. My small herd of cattle is used as a teaching tool and I hope to give students hands-on experiences they would not otherwise have in life. Passion fuels success, that's my goal."
Tankesley stated in the program, "Many people go into education with the idea of being in love with teaching. Fortunately for me, the idea is a reality. I have never second-guessed if I made the right choice in becoming a teacher. I love my students and my job!"