Packed into the Tempe Center for the Arts, local teachers, students and school leaders gathered Thursday night for the Excellence in Education Awards, and many in Ahwatukee came out winners.

Hosted annually by the Tempe Diablos, the ceremony highlights teachers, principals and staff from Kyrene and Tempe Elementary districts as well as Tempe Union High School District.

Twenty-four winners were named among eight categories, one from each district.

In addition, 30 high school students, three of which are from Mountain Pointe High School, received scholarships during the ceremony.

Desert Vista’s Dan Zavaleta walked away as Teacher of the Year from Tempe Union. As a technology and engineering teacher for the past 30 years, Zavaleta also leads the Technology and Engineering Academy at Desert Visit High School.

“It’s great, this is a first time for me,” said Zavaleta of the award.

Kyrene de la Sierra Principal Dave Maloney was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for Kyrene.

Planning to retire this spring after more than 20 years at Kyrene, Maloney said he was initially surprised by even being a finalist.

“There’s so many deserving people that have done so much and have given so much,” he said. “All of this has just been so nice.”

The Tempe Diablos aim to enhance the Tempe area through resources and leadership opportunities that focus on youth. The organization gave out more than $400,000 to education programs in the area from 2008 to 2009.

Award ceremony attendees also heard from keynote speaker Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott, the first victim in the tragic Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

Now a representative for Rachel’s Challenge, a motivational school program that promotes kindness and anti-bullying, Scott encouraged teachers on March 28 that their efforts do make a difference.

After sharing how one of his grade-school teachers impacted his own life, Scott also shared the story of how Rachel’s teachers affected her.

“Teachers are the key people to make sure the momentum keeps going,” Scott said.

Despite issues within education, Brian Martin, chairman of this year’s awards ceremony, challenged educators to find a way to celebrate every day.

“It’s about celebrating all that is right in education in our community, now more than ever public education needs our support,” Martin said.

For more information about the Tempe Diablos and the Excellence in Education Awards, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.