Cliff Gustafson Highland High School Gilbert Public Schools

Cliff Gustafson

Highland High School

Gilbert Public Schools

Cliff Gustafson

Highland High School

Gilbert Public Schools


Cliff Gustafson knows his numbers — and so do students in his Algebra 2 and geometry classes at Highland High School, where he will be teaching Algebra 2 and financial applications next year.

He’s been at Highland for three years and prior to that taught math for 10 years to at-risk students at Sun Valley High School.

A Gilbert resident since 1998 and father of six, he had been a computer programmer for nine years but then, he said, “I felt compelled to become a teacher, with the hope that I could make more of a difference with the time I was spending at work.”

At Sun Valley High, he taught students who largely were 18 to 21, former dropouts who decided to return to get their diploma — sometimes the first in their families to do so.

While there are many things he likes about teaching, two stand out: “First, discovering I reached a student I never thought I could reach,” he said. “Second, the interactions I have with my students on a daily basis. I am a strong believer in being consistently positive with students, talking to them, listening to them and trying to have a little fun along the way.  

“The philosophy that has been most impressed upon me over my teaching career is no significant learning occurs without a significant relationship. The relationship I try to establish with my students is one of respect, trust, encouragement and optimism, with a healthy dose of reality.”

Besides teaching math, he also is an assistant wrestling coach — harkening back to his own college days when he was a wrestler.


Second Place

Nick Cornell

Campo Verde High School

Higley Unified School District


Third Place

Bill Bitter

Highland High School

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