Desert Vista High School teacher Kevin Willis’ class was expecting to take a geometry quiz Thursday morning. Instead, they got to cheer for him on the radio as he won an award.
Willis was surprised with the KNIX (102.5 FM)’s Fulton Homes Teacher of the Week Award. He’s the second Desert Vista teacher to be honored by a Valley radio station in the space of a week.
Willis, who has been at Desert Vista for 12 years and taught for 16 years total, said it was a bit surprising to have a bunch of people interrupt his class to honor him and tape a radio spot.
“I was a little shocked today,” he said. “It was really cool. It was a really, really cool thing.”
Mark Trujillo, the student who nominated Willis for the prize, is a freshman in Willis’ sophomore geometry class. He said Willis has made him feel comfortable in the class and cares about his students.
“He will do anything to help kids succeed in life,” Trujillo said.
Willis also makes math relevant to real life and incorporates funny stories into class, Trujillo said.
Willis said it was touching to listen to Trujillo read his letter out loud. He’s very big on being there for students, whether it’s helping them deal with a difficult math problem or a personal issue, he said.
“I think it’s important to remember kids are different. Everyone comes from different backgrounds,” Willis said. “Kids today, they’re going through a lot of stuff, stuff you and I didn’t have to go through.”
Ahwatukee Foothills has a lot of great kids and families, so it’s easy to have fun in class and watch the days fly by, Willis said.
“They’re polite. They’re nice kids. Good families. When I call home if there’s an issue, parents are supportive,” he said.
Willis loves both the subject and the students he teaches, which helps him excel in the classroom, said math department chair Larry Strom.
“He’s a great teacher,” Strom said. “He’s willing to work with any kid, any time, at their level.”
The piece featuring Willis’ win will air at 6:50 a.m. May 21 on KNIX.