karol pacheco

Karol Pacheco

As the 2019-20 school year comes to a close, Ahwatukee students, teachers and several schools have picked up honors – and a few cash awards – from the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee, Tempe Diablos and Anti-Defamation League.

The cash awards came from the nonprofit Tempe Diablos, which honored seven Kyrene School District educators – including one in Ahwatukee – and several Tempe Union district educators – including two at Ahwatukee high schools – during its 31st annual Excellence in Education ceremony.

Karol Pacheco, an instructional assistant and coordinator of the Leadership Room at Kyrene de los Cerritos Leadership Academy in Ahwatukee received a $1,000 Class Act Award from the Diablos.

“Mrs. Pacheco is a perfect example of leadership in action at Cerritos,” the school announced in its newsletter when she was nominated. “She paints murals around our school, leads a singing group during our leadership events, plans special themes and prepares lessons and materials each month for the leadership room, works one on one with students in classrooms, plays the guitar, speaks Spanish with our students, and dresses up for a variety of school events.”

Among other Kyrene educators who were honored by the Tempe Diablos was retiring Assistant Superintendent Mark Knight, who received a $1,000 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mirada teacher Susan Edinger and Desert Vista High School English Department Lead Jennifer Summers each won a $1,000 Leadership Award from the Diablos.

The nonprofit also awarded $1,000 Inspiration Awards to Mountain Pointe High School Science Department Lead Meredith Morrissey and Kyrene Aprende teacher Jill Malina and a $1,000 Rising Star Saward to Cynthia Languren of Kyrene de la Mariposa.

A seventh Kyrene educator, Mirada kindergarten teacher Kirsten Williams won a $2,000 Teacher of the Year award from the Diablos, which gave a total $31,000 to 21 educators.

Since the Diablos’ formation in 1968, it has donated approximately $16 million to local nonprofits and educators.


Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee

Meanwhile, the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee announced its annual school awards.

Eighth grade winners of the Rev. Don Schneider Community Service Awards – based on the students’ “outstanding record of service to their school and community involvement,” included Horizon Honors students Liam Proctor and Anderson Conkle; Centennial Middle School students Leticia Gonzales-Rodriquez and Zachary Rodriquez; Mercy Berry and Ava Bradley, students at Akimel A-al Middle School.

Also cited honored with the Kiwanis Club’s Don Schneider awards were Altadeña Middle School studentsXane Pitts Peña and  Yanita Varela Hendricks.

The Kiwanis Club also announced high school winners chosen for their contributions in their respective schools’ Key Clubs.

They included Horizon Honors Secondary students Kieran Andrew,  Aden Molinar and   Xin-Hwei Lin; Desert Vista High student  Olivia Butler and Mountain Pointe student Zoi Strickling.


Anti-Defamation League honors

Five Ahwatukee schools are among 39 across the state that the Anti-Defamation League has designated as No Place For Hate “for creating safe learning environments and addressing issues of bullying and bias.”

In announcing the designations, the ADL cited Horizon Honors Elementary School for the fifth consecutive year as having the Program of the Year.

And Kyrene School District had the most schools of any district in Arizona to have the No Place For Hate designation. Two –Altadeña Middle School and Kyrene de las Lomas Elementary School – are in Ahwatukee.

“Horizon Honors Elementary went above and beyond with an entire year of programming under the theme ‘Everybody Has a Story,’” said the ADL, a leading anti-hate organization, founded in 1913 to combat  anti-Semitism and bigotry.

The ADL said the Horizon Elementary students “reflected on their identities and their families’ origin. Teachers shared lessons on microaggressions, intersecting identities and prejudice as well as respect and how to exhibit ally behaviors.”

“Even with the current challenges of early school closures and adjustments to virtual lessons this spring, these schools are finding ways to continue creating safer campuses for all students,” the ADL said of all the designees, which included Horizon Honors Secondary School in Ahwatukee.

The No Place for Hate initiative guides schools through completing campus-wide activities that promote “ally behaviors” and reduce bullying and bias. 

This year the initiative reached more than 63,000 students in Arizona schools and more than 1,800 schools nationwide. 

Desert Vista High School also received the designation.

Other Kyrene schools to earn the honor were C.I. Waggoner, Manitas and Cielo elementary schools and Kyrene Middle School.

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