Jessica Vocca was named Verde Pride's Educator of the Year, nominated by Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District superintendent Barb U'Ren.
The Title I teacher at Cottonwood Elementary School since 2003, U'Ren said Vocca is a Verde Valley native with deep roots in the community.
"With a smile on her face, she gives it her all," U'Ren said. "She fosters a sense of pride in nurturing children to grow academically and emotionally and has become a role model and mentor to children and staff."
Vocca went to Cottonwood Oak Creek in middle school and graduated from Mingus Union High School before attending Northern Arizona University.
Her coursework involved working on the Navajo Reservation and culminated in a bachelor's degree in education, and English-as-a-second-language endorsement.
The first in her family to earn a bachelor's degree, Vocca graduated magna cum laude and returned to her hometown to complete her student teaching at Cottonwood Elementary School.
"Jessica continually seeks out professional development opportunities to improve her knowledge of the science and art of teaching," U'Ren said. "Jessica has pursued master's level courses in literacy, obtained another reading endorsement, and is now pursing certification as an administrator."
The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School Board recently recognized Vocca as the Lifesaver of the Month for her ability to improve student learning and teacher practice. U'Ren said she is a leader who involves herself with community and school events.
"Her extensive knowledge of instruction and curriculum has resulted in Jessica taking a number of leadership roles with the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, including being the Reading Specialist for Cottonwood Elementary School and overseeing Cottonwood Middle School's Title I program," U'Ren said.
U'Ren said Vocca considers herself part of a "greater team" that demonstrates a strong work ethic and love for the students being served.
"It is with great pride that we can say, Jessica Vocca is a teacher's teacher making a difference in our community," U'Ren said.