Desert Ridge High School English teacher Federico “Freddy” Yanez Jr. said Thursday it still hasn’t sunk in that he was chosen as one of the top teachers in the state.
“It’s pretty humbling,” said Yanez, 34, of Queen Creek. “I know how many great teachers are out there. It’s an honor.”
Yanez was chosen as one of five 2008 Teacher of the Year Ambassadors for Excellence by the Arizona Educational Foundation.
He was in the running for the 2008 Teacher of the Year award, and although his name wasn’t the one called as the winner at Thursday’s awards luncheon in Paradise Valley, he has some proud administrators who consider him one of the best.
Desert Ridge principal Dan Coombs hired Yanez six years ago to head the English department at the new school in the Gilbert Unified School District. He considers Yanez one of the best teachers he’s ever known.
“He’s a gentleman who truly cares about kids,” Coombs said. “Freddy has the ability to help kids who are difficult to motivate. Many kids consider his class as a safe zone. He treats every kid as a superstar.”
Yanez started his teaching career 12 years ago at Gilbert High School. He helped open Desert Ridge in Mesa, and since has taught juniors and seniors the English language.
“I love working with the kids,” said Yanez, who grew up in Mesa and graduated from Dobson High School. “The way I run my classroom, it’s a great forum to exchange ideas. The discussion that comes from reading I find the most interesting.”
Yanez’s family came out in full force Thursday to be by his side at the luncheon, including his wife, Amy, and three children, Rico, Reyna and Anthony.
As one of the year’s ambassadors, he will receive $5,000, participate in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl Parade in the Wells Fargo stagecoach and receive professional speech training, among other prizes.
Also honored at the luncheon was Rachel Stafford, who teaches junior advanced placement English at Gilbert’s Mesquite High School.
A teacher for 11 years, she was one of the Teacher of the Year finalists — who, along with the Ambassadors for Excellence, make up the top 10 teachers of the year.
“This is one of the most rewarding experiences thus far in my career,” said Stafford, 35, of Mesa. “To be recognized for what students see in me, it’s an honor.”
Gilbert Superintendent Brad Barrett said to have two teachers in the district represented is a “verification we have the world’s best teachers.”
Robert Kelty, a second- and third-grade teacher at Puente de Hozho Elementary School in Flagstaff, was named the 2008 Teacher of the Year.
A team of 12 judges chose the top 10 teachers from close to 60 applicants.
The Teacher of the Year and the four ambassadors have the opportunity to speak throughout the state for a year, talking to educational, governmental, professional, civic, and parent and student groups.
The Teacher of the Year receives $20,000, meets the president of the United States and competes for the National Teacher of the Year, among other prizes.
The Arizona Educational Foundation, founded in 1983, is a private, nonprofit corporation made up of business and community leaders, an Arizona Department of Education representative and a classroom teacher.
For information, visit azedfoundation.org.