Two local business owners joined Kyrene Superintendent Jan Vesely in saluting 27 teachers in Ahwatukee schools for their students’ academic growth over the past year.
They were among 50 teachers across the district whose students showed the most growth according to performance evaluations.
Randi Garcia, owner of Barefoot Pools, and John Kloc of Home BenefitIQ accompanied Vesely to all the schools where the 50 teachers work, surprising them and their classes with special presentations that included a gift card and certificate recognizing their achievements.
Of the eight teachers district-wide whose classes showed 100 percent improvement, five are in Ahwatukee schools.
They are Megan Callaghan, a fifth grade math teacher at Cerritos; Janice Levenson, a second grade English Learning Arts teacher at Esperanza; Juliana Twilley, a second grade ELA teacher at Lagos; Theresa Shinabarger, a kindergarten ELA teacher at Lomas; and Lauren Levin, a fourth grade ELA teacher at Milenio.
The other 22 teachers in Ahwatukee schools who were honored for their students’ above-average growth were: Dondi Caswell, Akimel A-al Middle School; Megan Giron and Josh Jolin, Altadena; Kayla Velastegui, Centennial; Tiffani Montelione, Cerritos; Esperanza teachers Cheryl Chance, Rochelle Cotela and Janice Levenson; and Estrella teachers Allie Ball, Julie Cleveland, Lindsey Hodgson and Bailey Isenberg.
Also, Eli Hillis, Lagos; Lomas teachers Amy Buchanan and Scott Wilson; Laura Sparks, Milenio; Monte Vista teachers Christine Hartland, Julie Perks, Tiffani Poirier and Michele Raymondo; and Sierra teachers Jaime Imrie and Tami Myers.
“These are our top 50 teachers,” Vesely told the school board. “They took kids and grew them intellectually.”
Noting that some teachers were being recognized in the “Kyrene Values Teachers” program for the second consecutive year, Vesely added, “It’s the best day of the year when I get to go into a teacher’s classroom and tell them ‘thank you’ for the contributions they make.”
In a video of some of those visits, both Kloc and Garcia praised the commitment of Kyrene teachers and the quality of the district’s educational programs.
Kloc said he decided to help fund the gift cards because his two children, now adults, were schooled in Kyrene and that the teachers impacted them “beyond what we could have imagined.”
“The teachers don’t even know it and that’s what’s so amazing,” he said, adding that he welcomed the opportunity to accompany Vesely on the surprise visits because “This is a chance to go back to them and say thank you and that’s just amazing to be able to do.”
“They started from kindergarten all the way through the Kyrene School District,” Kloc added. “Their life is so much better now. Ultimately received scholarships to college, one of them a full-ride scholarship. To me it goes back to their foundation. It goes back to the teaching that they had here.”
Garcia said, “I think teachers are truly the roots of growth for our community. The way that they’re shaping these students is only going to trickle down into what our community turns into, and I think it’s so important that teachers are recognized.”
She also said she and other business owners want to grow the Kyrene Values Teachers program.
“We hope to be able to grow with the program with them, and we just want to thank them for all of their hard work and everything that they do day in and day out. It is a very special person to be a teacher and a member in any capacity of the school.”
Garcia also said the gift card was “a small token of our appreciation” for the significant achievement.
“What they’re doing for the students here, the way that they’re teaching them, the growth that they’ve shown is so impressive,” she said.