When Amphitheater High School English Language Development teacher Carla Garcia was told she would have administrative staff coming to visit her classroom, she expected just that. Needless to say, when she saw a “huge camera”, flowers, and a couple of gift bags being brought into her classroom, she was a surprised.
Little did she know, the Tucson Values Teachers organization had selected her for the Teacher Excellence Award. Many of Garcia’s colleagues, along with some of her students, were there for the presentation.
The Tucson Values Teachers organization, supported by Office Max and the University of Arizona, chooses winners based on nominations from colleagues and the community, and focuses largely on recognizing teacher innovation and influence.
Office Max gave Garcia a $100 gift card, bag of classroom supplies, and a t-shirt. The University gave her two tickets to a show, at which time her name and award will be presented on the marquee.
“It’s nice to know that Tucson businesses and industries value public education teachers,” said Garcia. “It’s nice to be validated by the outside community.”
Garcia is also not afraid to make learning fun.
“I’m not afraid to be silly and dance to get them laughing and interested,” said Garcia. “I’ll sing ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes,’ and the ‘ABC’s’. I also have big plastic glasses that I put on to teach context clues, and to teach kids how you have to be a detective when you’re reading. The students will put them on and use our magnifying glass as a prop.”
Garcia’s teaching structure focuses heavily on reading as a medium to help students develop their English language skills. Her classroom reflects this, boasting an entire wall unit full of books that Garcia has either purchased or had donated from yard sales.
“I try and find stuff that interests the students. Anything from their home country is huge,” said Garcia.
Using a program called Accelerated Reader, Garcia is able to track her students’ reading statistics based on comprehension and word count.
“We have kids who read millions of words in a year, and these are second-year readers,” said Garcia. “Last year, we had one of our students read more than three million words, and she is being honored this year by the State.”
At the end of the year, Garcia plans on using her Office Max gift card to reward her readers.
Along with her passion for developing the students’ English skills, Garcia strives to know each student on a personal level in order to better understand his or her interests and growth opportunities.
When the students found out about her award, they were very excited for her, and happy to tell others that their teacher had won the award.
Raytheon, celebrating 60 years of business in Tucson, will be holding a reception at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort on Dec. 1, where it will donate ticket proceeds to the Tucson Values Teachers program.
Tickets are $75 and will be available for purchase on www.tucsonvaluesteachers.org.
Garcia was nominated by former colleague Kristen Bettcher.