2017 Legendary Teacher Submissions

This page is dedicated to teachers who have made a difference!



Legendary Teacher:  Dianna Villa

teacher with studentAs a former employee of Copperview, I had the great pleasure of working with Dianna Villa. I was an instructional aide for almost 3yrs. This position requires you to learn new things on a daily basis. You learn from teachers, other aides, and even the students. Well, now in my late 30’s, Mrs. Villa taught me the importance of being in a child’s life.

I was a stay at home mom before joining the workforce. She taught me that patience and praise can go a long way and encouraged me to follow my dream of being a teacher. She was amazing to work with but also taught me so much. She taught me how to believe in myself.

My children had the pleasure of having her as a teacher and she was amazing with them. She taught my son to read, my oldest daughter to believe in herself, and my youngest to not be scared of new things. She always greeted all the students individually and made them feel better about themselves. She did this with my kids as well. She deserves so much praise for all she does for the student body. She even eats lunch with her students on a weekly basis. She gives up her time after school and before school to tutor kids. She is an amazing teacher.

~ Alex Villegas

Legendary Teacher:  Hayley Fox

Ms. Fox was the perfect teacher for our son Jaden. She nurtured his emotional growth. She helped him get through a difficult situation for a child at the tender age of 8. I cannot say enough about Ms. Fox ~ she was kind and very in tune with him. Ms. Fox, you have a special place in the hearts of the Gastelum family. We truly love you!

~ Daniel & Lorena Gastelum

Legendary Teacher:  Joe DeFazio

Mr. DeFazio provides an energetic and engaging atmosphere to each subject he teaches, whether it be by leading interesting debates about historical topics and issues, or prompting students to ponder age-old questions about human behavior in psychology. He truly brings the content to life and encourages students to think critically, a skill that has guided many of his former students down the path to success. It is also apparent that Mr. DeFazio is extremely passionate about what he teaches, as students can always count on him to give 100% into every lecture and be fired up about the next topic. Being an AP teacher as well, he goes above and beyond to prepare students for the Advanced Placement test, organizing study sessions and providing a plethora of extra resources. Overall, Mr. DeFazio is an incredibly hardworking and enthusiastic teacher who stands out in the lives of so many students. He is constantly finding ways to motivate his class and has successfully ignited a passion for learning in myself and so many of my peers.

~ Melissa Valenzuela

Legendary Teacher: Sylvia Telles

Mrs. Telles is a cornerstone for Sahuarita Middle School. She works countless hours helping students to succeed in math while coordinating and ensuring excellence for the Excel 2 before/after school program. Always professional yet affable this Legendary Teacher is helping SMS be the best school any way she can: through hard work, long hours, being a proven example and a leader. Happy and productive students know the same things that grateful staff do – Mrs. Telles helps make SMS shine through her efforts.

~ Anonymous

Legendary Teacher: Gail Terhune

Mrs. Terhune is an amazing science teacher! She does so much for SMS students and staff. She spends the early morning and late evening coordinating the Excel 2 program, mentors teachers and still finds the time and energy to be a positive presence on campus. The students respect her even as she keeps educational expectations high in her classes. SMS has some “faces” amongst its staff which are recognizably terrific; Mrs. Terhune is unquestionably one of them.

~ Anonymous

Legendary Teacher: Dale Post

What is so amazing about Mr.Post is that he doesn’t teach from the book. He teaches from life. It’s one thing to learn about history from a book but, to actually have it taught you by someone who has been to that place and seen it with their own eyes is something that stays with you. My favorite week of class (in the 3 years I was lucky enough to have him) was always his lecture and slides on Auschwitz. hearing about his time there at the museum and the people he met there and in many of his travels around our world, it’s truly amazing. And even in college his famous words stuck with me and helped me through. Thank you Mr.Post. You truly are a one of a kind teacher and I’m so glad I read the chapters!

~ Kirstin Tessendorf

Legendary Teacher: Benjamin Lebovitz

He’s really shaped me into who I am and he really does his best with teaching us, and I really appreciate him as a person. He’s helped me figure a lot of things out with my singing career. I love him a lot! 

~ Emily Haremza

Mr. Lebovitz is always there for people when they need to talk or if they need help. He is so kind and cares about each and every one of his students. He is an amazing teacher

~ Aidan Thowson

Mr. Lebovitz, he impacted my learning and impacted me as well, he has taught me many things about drama, like how to keep moving forward no matter what distraction occurs, and in choir, like how he showed us how to work out our vocal chords. He, in general, is an amazing man. He is the nicest man you could ask for. He is also goofy too! Which makes him even better! 

~ Ashley Kirchner

He is always so eager to teach the class and that really helps the atmosphere of the whole room. He is so active in the community and always makes time to be able to talk to students and listen.

~ Shaelee Bauer


Legendary Teacher: Kassandra Blanco

She is devoted to her students! Mrs. Blanco is the best teacher I know. Always bringing the best out of the children by focusing on their individual needs. She develops the kids’ strengths and challenges each kid so they get better.

~ Daira Baker

Legendary Teacher: Caitlyn Marcum

Caitlyn Marcum is a fellow teacher at SMS who works tirelessly to teach various math classes to her 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. She also opens her room for Excel tutoring so can further assist her students so that they can experience success in math and further develop their math skills. Caitlyn’s exemplary expectations and personal standards of excellence truly make her a legendary teacher!

~ Anonymous

Legendary Teacher: Kimberly Campbell

Kimberly Campbell is a colleague who works tirelessly to ensure her students are successful. She is also the SMS cheer coach, and her influence, dedication, and expertise has taken her cheer team to levels that make the team a force to be reckoned with. Mrs. Campbell always demonstrates kindness and concern for her students and models what it takes to be a legendary teacher!

~ Anonymous

Legendary Teacher: Salvador Boenzi

I feel that Mr. Boenzi is a legendary teacher because he tries to help everyone do their very best in every way. Every day he asks us, “Is that very best you can do, or can you do better. ” Then he tries to help us achieve our very best. Mr.Boenzi, really makes band feel like a home away from home. He constantly reminds us that we are all a family and we have to be respectful to each other. That is why I feel that Mr.Boenzi is a legendary teacher.

~ Greta Zimmerman

Legendary Teacher: Nate Ratey

Mr. Ratey’s enthusiasm and passion for teaching 6th grade Language Arts are apparent in everything he does. His determination to make a difference in the lives of each and every student in his room drives him to plan engaging lessons, find meaningful and relevant materials, and develop relationships with his students to establish trust. He goes above and beyond by opening up his room to students before school, joining them outside during “Fun Fridays,” and tutoring after school during the Excel 2 program. His positive attitude and hard work ethic make him vital to the SMS staff. Thank you for all you do for our students!

~ Anonymous SMS Staff Member

Legendary Teacher: Tonya Gilvin

Concerned, caring, and always serving beyond self – these words just begin to describe the wonderful Tonya Gilvin, Project Inspire/Extended Resource teacher at SMS. Mrs. Gilvin is our hero and has worked with our son for almost 3 years. She was there when puberty hit and our son’s medications stopped working. Our son went from being a happy boy with high functioning autism to a teenager with autism, clinical anxiety, severe depression and suicidal ideation. Mrs. Gilvin helped our son navigate this scary and dangerous new paradigm by giving him constant support, a steady routine, and tough love. She helped my wife and I navigate through the fears and tears as we watched our son suffer. We cannot begin to praise her enough. When we found out about Mrs. Gilvin’s own severe and chronic illness, we were even more amazed at the level of care she gives each student. Unlike most teachers, Tonya Gilvin deals with daily health issues that would have most people on disability. Yet she still works giving each student the special supports and love they need to succeed. Unlike ordinary teachers, Mrs. Gilvin hires, trains and supervises a large staff of paraprofessionals. They are exceptional! When we asked her how she was able to find so many great paraprofessionals, Mrs. Gilvin said it all starts with the first interview. She only hires people that truly care about our special needs kids and trains them well. Tonya Gilvin has changed our son’s life. She supported him through the most difficult years of his life. Mrs. Gilvin is our hero and a Legendary Teacher.

~ Lin Thompson

Legendary Teacher: Nicole McKay

Nicole McKay is a legendary teacher! Her life is one gigantic juggling act and she constantly amazes me in how she keeps it all together. As a single parent who also helps care for her mom, she also mentors teachers and students, leads student council, coaches sports, works a 6/5 contract, and takes the bull by the horns by writing not only her regular grade-level lesson plans but also proactively sets up ones for the 6th grade science team. Nicole always approaches everything she does with professionalism, wit, and a go-get’em attitude. 

Nicole deserves to be chosen as a legendary teacher more than anyone I have met in my travels.

~ Wendy Fairbanks

A colleague at SMS, Nicole McKay exemplifies what a Legendary Teacher is. Her students thoroughly enjoy her science classes, and the relationships she establishes with them are lifelong. Ms. McKay also spreads her wings to include the entire student population, as she teaches a leadership class, inspiring students to set examples and hold themselves to high standards. Additionally, she creates fun and effective weekly Character Counts lessons that truly resonate with students. Her role does not end there, though; she’s even co-organizer of the end-of-year Field Day event. No doubt, Nicole McKay is a Legendary Teacher!

~ Anonymous

Legendary Teacher: Dr. Robert Hendricks

black and white teacher photoDr. Hendricks was my school principal when I was a 12-year-old seventh-grade student at Flowing Wells Junior High School. Over the last 40 years, he’s been my junior high school principal, superintendent, boss, professor, doctoral program committee chairperson, mentor, and friend. He’s impacted me in many transformational ways.

For Dr. Hendricks, excellence is always the standard. He modeled it and expected it of his students, staff, and anybody affiliated with the organization. He was an excellent teacher, who prepared meaningful lessons and modeled effective practice. I learned much from him about leadership that still guides my professional practice today.

Dr. Hendricks was innovative as a school system leader, always pursuing new and promising practices that could impact the effectiveness of the organization. I strive to follow this example of always looking for new and better ways to serve our students. He always modeled a tireless work ethic, strong character, and commitment to the community. 

old student photo

Dr. Hendricks always took a genuine interest in mentoring emerging leaders and helping them to grow. I’m fortunate to have been one of the beneficiaries of his coaching and mentorship. He is truly a Legendary Teacher whose instruction, guidance and support strongly impacted the direction of my life.

~ Dr. Manuel Valenzuela

Legendary Teacher: Kristi Lopez

teacher with studentMs. Lopez is a Legendary teacher because she is not only a dance teacher but she is a role model, sometimes even a 2nd mom (PAC mom) and just an all around amazing person. I cannot express enough how thankful I am for her and all the support she has given me throughout the years. She plays a big part in who I am today because she is one of the most influential people in my life and many others.

She has taught us that hard work pays off. She has always encouraged us to keep trying and she has always, always pushed us to never give up and to never be complacent and to always be disciplined. 

I thank her for caring about us. Because it wasn’t just dance to her, she cares about all of the lives of her students. She gives us advice when we need it. She takes the time to get to know her students. She has seen us at our best and at our worst. But no matter, at the end of the day, she always believed in us.

I appreciate her for pouring her heart and soul into teaching even when it got hard. I appreciate her for sharing her love for dance with me. I appreciate her for the countless hours spent in and out of the dance room and all the late nights of choreographing *unpaid* so that we would have a dance. She does a lot for her students and she cares with all her heart for each and every one of them, and that’s something very special about her. I appreciate her for sharing her passion for dance with all of us. I appreciate her for always being the most phenomenal role model that someone could have in their lives. She has inspired so many students and it’s truly amazing to see the impact she has made.

I owe it to her my love for dance and for making me not only the dancer but the person I am today. Because of Ms. Lopez, dance will always have a place in my heart because she put it there. My life and many others have changed for the better because we had her as our teacher.

~ Amber Detamore

Legendary Teacher: Shirley Porterfield

Mrs. Porterfield helped me when I was out with a serious surgery and recovery. I was in the hospital for two weeks last year from December 27, 2016, through Jan 9, 2017. I was out of school for an additional four weeks after that. Mrs. Porterfield volunteered to visit me in my home; coordinate with the other teachers to get my work together and came and tutored me. She took time out of her day, even when her own mother was having chemo. She helped me keep up with ALL my classes and when I came back to school I wasn’t behind at all. While I appreciate all my teachers working with me during this time, Mrs. Porterfield really stepped up and showed what being a caring, selfless SHS Teacher is. She is truly legendary to me!

~ Nathan Brown

Legendary Teacher: Hector Estrada

teacher with graduateMr. Estrada didn’t let me use excuses but inspired me to do the best I can. I remember when he was helping me with an essay I had to submit outside of school, he deleted a sentence he had written character by character and said to himself “no bad writing” which is a phrase I never forgot throughout college and still repeat to myself today. I entered his class thinking I hate writing, but he made me love it.

~ Elizabete Libiete

Legendary Teacher: Laura Maulden

An amazing teacher who never has a bad day, and if she does, she never shows it. Somehow she made math fun. Now that’s a challenge!

~ Jack Raven

Legendary Teacher: Laura Hatfield

Mrs. Hatfield goes above and beyond in meeting the needs of all the kids in her class. My son has been lucky to have her for math for three years. During that time he has made significant gains in math including a big gain in his confidence about his ability in math. She has also worked hard to make sure he is successful in all of his other classes. The level of parent-teacher communication is incredible and I know she generally cares about him. Mrs. Hatfield is a legendary teacher!

~ Kimberly Glenn

Legendary Teacher: Pat Weber

Mr. Weber was an unofficial mentor of mine when I started teaching at Flowing Wells High School in 2000. He helped me work through lesson plans, answered my “what would you do if” questions, and was a mentor and friend for this new teacher. I also had the privilege to coach with Pat for the better part of a decade, serving as his assistant wrestling coach for many of those years. During these years he modeled hard work and patience. I appreciate everything Mr. Weber did for me as a new teacher and coach entering the field of Education. 
Thank you, Pat!

~ John Kneup

Legendary Teacher: Tamara Kempton

She inspired me to be myself. Even after graduation, she has gone above and beyond her role as a teacher and has been an amazing mentor. She puts her heart into her work and even the most stubborn students can appreciate how much she cares. I may forget the material she taught, but will never forget the impact she has had on my adult life.

~ Tara Coalter

Legendary Teacher: Jim Heinzelmann

What makes a legendary teacher? Those that inspire is the first thing that comes to mind. The legendary teacher that inspires me and so many others is Mr. Jim Heinzelmann; former teacher and now principal of Sopori Elementary School. Mr. Heinzelmann is an administrator that has not forgotten what it is like to be in the classroom. All these wonderful qualities that make a teacher legendary make Mr. Heinzelmann a remarkable and well-loved administrator.

Mr. Heinzelmann sets high expectations to help students, teachers, and support staff reach their full potential. He models standards of mutual respect. Jim’s sense of work ethic and professionalism leads his students and staff to become better and more effective people. He also believes that every student and staff member has the ability to learn, and is willing to push us to do our best. 

Desirable qualities also include the ability to form strong relationships with parents, students, and staff. Mr. Heinzelmann is a warm, caring, and open individual, who helps all of us feel safe to share ideas in a supportive learning environment. What distinguishes a mediocre educator from a good one is the ability to create this sense of belonging, which Mr. Heinzelmann does effortlessly. He is a humble, dedicated, and patient individual who is willing to work collaboratively with students, staff, and community. These are the qualities, plus so much more that makes Mr. Jim Heinzelmann a legendary educator which in turn, inspires me to become a better teacher.

~ Jana Turner

Legendary Teacher: Matt Kutina

This teacher taught me to love math. He also taught many life skills to us on top of the math.

 ~ Josh Gardner 

Legendary Teacher: Joe Prince

Most inspirational person to help coach me into a wonderful player. Always there for me when I needed help in the classroom as well.

~ Hailey Bliven

Legendary Teacher: Ciara Stewart

She has taught all of her children how to learn in a fun way. She never made it so that no one wants to learn. Every time we walk in the classroom everyone greets her and says she is the best teacher ever. All of us love her very much.

~ Amity Werner

Legendary Teacher: Ms. Kondrat

I miss the most amazing teacher and friend who worked at Sahuarita High School, Nancy Kondrat. She was our librarian the entire time I have worked here and a History teacher before that. Nancy’s name still comes up in conversation more than you can imagine; by students and by staff. You are still thought of by many people here at Sahuarita High School. We hope you are enjoying your retirement. We miss you and we are carrying on your good work.

~ Debra Drake

Legendary Teacher: Mr. Breeze

Mr. Breeze was a very comedic teacher that taught me to laugh and enjoy life. When times were hard and stressful he knew how to brighten my day with his silly jokes or comedic comments. His laid back type of teaching helped me to feel relaxed while still learning a new language.

~ Liz York

Legendary Teacher: David Wear

When I was a senior in 1977, my counselor informed me that I couldn’t pursue my dreams of becoming a school teacher. So what did I do? I left her office and went crying to my coach and mentor at the time, Coach Wear. He asked, “what’s wrong kiddo?” I replied, “My counselor said I couldn’t go to NAU and to consider a trade of some kind.” At the time I didn’t even know what that meant. So he looked at me with such empathy and asked, “Do you want to go to college?” I replied,”yes, Mr. Wear, I want to be a teacher like you.” He then went and got things together and came back to me the next day with all these forms which he had highlighted for my parents to sign (since I was the first in my family to receive a college degree). Long story short, attended NAU, received my degree in four years, started teaching in Mesa Public Schools, and 30 years later retired at the age of 51 and done. It always takes someone caring and compassionate to believe in you to make your dreams come true. Thank you, Mr. Wear for making a difference in my life!

~ Diana Hernandez “Teso”

Legendary Teacher: Mirna Hahn

She not only helped me learn math, but she also was there for me during my 4 years of high school, and even during college. She is very supportive and cares for her students.

~ Nubia Amaya

Legendary Teacher: Terri Boerner

Mrs. Bteacher with studentoerner has impacted the life of Joshua Mones by setting the principles for his future education. She was Joshua’s kindergarten teacher and really took the time to build his confidence and encourage him. When my son was struggling with sight words, reading and fundamental skills she took the time to stay late with him three times a week to do one on one tutoring. The turn around of Joshua’s performance was immediate! 

Mrs. Boerner has a sound knowledge of the curriculum and brings meaningful and engaging lessons to her students. She is respected and appreciated by students and parents. She actively pursues professional learning and networking opportunities with colleagues and the school community. 

Mrs. Boerner has aligned her professional growth plans with the goals of the school with a major focus this year on school/home communication. She has been most successful in fostering positive relationships with parents and the community. Mrs. Boerner is a positive role model for staff and students.

In summary, Mrs. Boerner is dedicated, self-less and loves to teach! She is a legendary teacher and deserves recognition!

~ Barbra Solares

Legendary Teacher: Windy Giddings

Mrs. Giddings has been so very patient in mentoring me as a long-term substitute teacher last year and a first year full-time teacher this school year. I could never have fulfilled the requirements of the job without her guidance and support. In addition to her own full caseload as a Special Education Teacher, she has tirelessly trained me and continues to support me in managing my caseload.

~ Sandra Quillin