As school district personnel adjust and grapple with new remote strategies to educate children, coordinate lunch programs and much more, local administrators helped shed some sunshine to the mostly gloomy realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Educators at several schools in Douglas were honored on Wednesday, May 6 as part of Arizona’s Teacher Appreciation Week.

Teachers paraded through the parking lot of the middle school campus on 15th Street and F Avenue, and were presented with an assortment of gifts, including homemade cupcakes and candy apples, from Centers for Academic Success CAS Principal Marcela Munguia and Executive Director Veda Phelps, and other administrative staff members.

“Now more than ever we need to let our teachers know we appreciate their hard work,” Munguia said. “In a matter of days they had to go from whole-group instruction to electronic platforms and packets; finding the kids and their homes and getting them the lessons they’re due. They had to do a 360 degree turn to get these kids the work they needed to complete the rest of the quarter, get them educated and onto the next grade level.They didn’t even blink when I asked them to do this and I really appreciate it.”

“Our staff here is so amazing,” Phelps added. “We couldn’t do what we do without them and we wouldn’t be an A school without their dedication and commitment. I’m so proud of them.”

On Thursday, DUSD Superintendent Ana Samaniego and her staff loaded onto a school bus and made a stop at each school in the district recognizing the Teacher and Support Staff of the Year for that school.

“I feel it’s important to let our teachers and support staff know how much we appreciate all that they do,” Samaniego said. For the past six years DUSD has held a teacher appreciation dinner where end-of-year honors were handed out. COVID-19 nixed this year’s event.

Stevenson Elementary was the first stop where third-grade teacher Bernadette Gonzalez was recognized as the school’s Teacher of the Year and Rachel Nalley was honored as the Support Staff of the Year.

“Being an educator in DUSD is truly amazing,” Gonzalez said. “I love my job and making a difference in a child’s life.”

It’s been difficult for her being away from the children. “In a classroom you know what their needs are,” Gonzalez said. “Over virtual video it’s hard to give them that individual attention they sometimes need. It’s been a struggle. I miss them.”

Nalley, a secretary at Stevenson, has been there 25-years, also serving in other positions.

“This is such an amazing school,” she said. “I really enjoy working here. It’s like a family here. This is such an honor. I didn’t expect it. I’m very grateful.”

From there it was off to Clawson Elementary where Ana Daniel, who teaches fourth grade, was recognized as the Teacher of the Year and Cenia Roman, the Support Staff of the Year.

At Sarah Marley Elementary, Yahaira Leafstone, who teaches second grade, and Edith Castro were honored.

At Faras Elementary in Pirtleville, third grade teacher Michelle Yanez and Roberta Suarez were acknowledged by Principal Fernando Morales and the other principals on the bus.

“I really love my job,” Yanez said. “I like coming to work everyday. Teaching third graders is very challenging, yet very rewarding.”

She misses her students, too. “They send me pictures of what they are doing and it brings tears to my eyes,” Yanez said. “I really miss being with them in the classroom.”

Suarez has been with DUSD for 22 years and currently is an Exceptional Student Services Instructional Aide. She works solely with one student.

“We communicate through texting and he does his work through the computer,” she said. “I love what I do, it’s amazing.”

At Joe Carlson Elementary, Hector Moreno and Yolanda Othon were recognized as the Teacher of the Year and Support Staff of the Year respectively. At Ray Borane Middle School, Michael Chavez and Joe Perez were honored; at Paul Huber Middle School, Ondrea Estrada and Jacquelyn Estrada were acknowledged, and at Douglas High School, Bianca Hernandez and Maria Velasco were honored.

“I wish we could do more for all of our educators,” Samaniego said. “I think every principal has attempted to recognize them in some way, shape or form. They really do a lot for our students.”

“While it’s been challenging, I think we’re ending on a positive note. I hope today was special for them.”

In other appreciation activities, Friday, May 1 was School Principal’s Day. Samaniego had all her principals report to the main office where people in about 200 cars passed by honking horns and showing their support. Some students even exited cars and presented gifts to their principals.

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