Q&A with Verde Valley Teacher of the Week Elizabeth Thurner

In her first year as an educator, Cottonwood Community School’s Elizabeth Thurner was nominated for the county’s Teacher of the Year award in the first-year teacher category. VVN/Bill Helm

In her first year as an educator, Cottonwood Community School’s Elizabeth Thurner was nominated for the county’s Teacher of the Year award in the first-year teacher category. VVN/Bill Helm

COTTONWOOD – It’s been less than a year since Elizabeth Thurner graduated from California State University at Long Beach.

Things sure are different when you live in the desert, as Thurner relocated to the Verde Valley to take a job as a first grade teacher at Cottonwood Community School.

“I am excited for my students and me to grow and learn so much this school year,” Thurner said.

Not only is this the school’s first year offering K-8 instruction, but Thurner recently was nominated for the county’s Teacher of the Year award in the first-year category.

Her students, Thurner said, is the main reason she likes teaching.

“I adore each and every one of them,” she said. “They inspire me and help me grow not only as a teacher but as a human being.”

After years as principal at the former Cottonwood Middle School, this is Matt Schumacher’s first year leading a K-8 school. For Schumacher, it is Thurner’s “energy and positive attitude” that are her strengths.

“What struck me right off the bat with Mrs. Thurner was her enthusiasm for students and her deep embrace for the ideology that all students can achieve at a high level regardless of their background or barriers,” Schumacher said.

“She embraces each student as an individual who brings unique contributions to the classroom, before harnessing her organizational strengths to develop personalized learning experiences for her students,” Schumacher said. “That is how she makes a difference, by infusing a sense of belonging and limitless potential in all her students and by helping them to see that no matter what their past, they can accomplish anything.”

If Thurner was not a teacher, she said that she would want to be a school’s psychologist or counselor. 

“I love working with children, as it is one of the most rewarding professions,” Thurner said.

Verde Valley Newspapers: When did you know that you wanted to become an educator?

Elizabeth Thurner: “I realized I wanted to be an educator when my oldest nephew, 6 years at the time, read to me for the first time. I was mesmerized by the way he was reading the book I had read to him many times before. I knew then I wanted to be part of the amazing learning process when kids acquire the knowledge and skills they will use for the rest of their lives.”

VVN: Could you explain your teaching style?

Thurner: “As a first-year teacher, my teaching style is developing. I am focusing on structure, expectations, and consequences.

“I believe my students can make their own decisions and understand their decisions have consequences. My goal is to have a student-driven classroom where my students are self-sufficient and I am there to facilitate and guide their learning.

“In addition, I want my students to know our classroom is a family where we stick together, love and respect one another. We work together to develop a flourishing learning environment and take what we learn into the world.”

VVN: What do you like least about teaching? 

Thurner: “Hearing my students say they cannot do something or they are not smart. I believe all students are capable of doing anything they set their mind into and they can achieve anything with hard work and dedication.

VVN: Tell us something notable about you.

Thurner: “I made it to the Dean’s/Principal’s list every semester at California State University Long Beach, even during my teaching program.”

VVN: Do you have a favorite quote?

Thurner: “A student is a child first, and my priority is to ensure their basic needs are met first, then focus on academics.”

VVN: Tell us something most people don’t know about you.

Thurner: “I was originally a business major in college. Then a year into college I changed into education. One of the best decisions of my life.”

 -- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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