2023 AZ Teacher of the Year Ty White loves helping students prepare for their futures
Willcox High School Chemistry Teacher Ty White was named Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2023 Arizona Teacher of the Year during a celebration at the Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix just days ago.
“I teach because I love the relationships I find with my students. I teach because I want to have a chance to help them find who they want to be and how they’re going to achieve their future goals,” said White, who has taught for 16 years.
“He gets to know each one of his students and what they need and what they want in their future and he makes sure that he can do everything in his power to make that happen for them,” said a student of Mr. White.
White is also the 2022 National Rural Teacher of the Year, and he will speak at the National Rural Education Association’s National Forum to Advance Rural Education on Friday in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“I think that teachers in Arizona do a lot of time working and planning together, and I think that we share a lot of resources, and we put in a lot of effort. There’s no way to recognize one without recognizing that all of us are doing a lot of important work,” White told 12 News NBC.
"I think that teachers in Arizona do a lot of time working and planning together … There's no way to recognize one without recognizing that all of us are doing a lot of important work." – Ty White, @azedfoundation's 2023 Arizona Teacher of the Year. 🎥@12News #AZTOY2023 pic.twitter.com/fR5S49D5xG— Arizona Educational Foundation (@azedfoundation) October 17, 2022
Desert Financial Credit Union Executive Vice President Cathy Graham presented White with the award at the ceremony that honored the Top 10 Teacher of the Year nominees and featured speeches from Superintendent of Public Education Kathy Hoffman, 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year Nancy Parra-Quinlan and more.
“All of our Teacher of the Year nominees exemplify the best that Arizona has to offer in terms of educational excellence, being a role model, and inspiring students in their community,” said Kim Graham, executive director of Arizona Educational Foundation. “We are so proud of each and every one of them.”
“AEF congratulates Ty White on being named Arizona Teacher of the Year and looks forward to him representing us in Washington, DC, as Arizona’s 2023 National Teacher of the Year candidate,” Graham said.
Arizona Educational Foundation video: Ty White – 2023 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year!
White sponsors Willcox High School’s Science Club, GATE Club, and coaches the Knowledge Bowl student team. He also mentors students who do independent research projects, and several of those students’ projects have been entered in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
“I’ve created a number of clubs for students who think they have interest in something to find a place they can fit in,” White said.
“He genuinely cares about his students and their success,” a student said.
“I try to make sure they understand how much I care about them. If they don’t know that that’s why I’m here, then they’re less willing to engage with my class,” White said.
White said he often raises questions with students and asks what they think about current events that also touch on science.
“I want to make it where they have to think about the ways science and humanity connect with each other,” White said.
White earned his Bachelor of Arts in Education in Secondary Education – Chemistry from Arizona State University, and his Master of Arts in Education in STEM Education from the Teachers in Industry program at the University of Arizona.
“The biggest story from teaching comes from watching students find themselves. When you get to see a kid figure out they are able to do something they didn’t think they were able to do before, that’s the biggest payoff right there,” White said.
“Mr. White makes a difference, because he’s always making sure everyone is included,” said one of his students.
White is the Chief Science Officer Cabinet Coordinator for Southeast Arizona and the Southwest Regional Space Settlement Design Coordinator.
“He’s up here every day encouraging and inspiring,” said another student.
This year, he is working with the Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation to pilot a classroom research project in rural schools.
“I’m a teacher who pushes kids to try new things, to step out of their comfort zone to make them experience different parts of the world they never thought about before,” White said.
“I’m teaching them a new way of thinking about the world. I ask them to be real open and consider changing their minds and learn new things, which we know is one of the hardest things a person can do,” White said.
White is also a founding Board Member of InSimEd, a non-profit that creates industry simulation challenges, affiliated with Aerospace Education Corporation. As a non-profit, they also assist underserved and underrepresented students to participate and travel to competitions.
“For example, we will be renting the biosphere this year, my goal working with SciTech, we’re gonna fill every casita up with high schoolers and they’re going to work with actual aerospace engineers to plan space habitats,” White said to ABC 15 Arizona.
White is collaborating with the Arizona Science Center, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the Society for Science to form a rural community of practice group to share resources and support a community of STEM teachers around the state.
“I choose to stay in the classroom, because I can see the difference I’m making,” White said.
“I’ve thought about that before. I have a chemistry degree. There’s jobs I could go pursue,” White said. If I left this community, there’s no one to step in and fill my shoes. There’s already a shortage across the state. Rural schools especially feel that.”
“I stay here because I want to provide opportunities for these kids,” White said. “I stay because when my child comes through our district, I want her to have an outstanding education.”
“He’s always there. He’s that one guy you can talk to and trust. No matter what, he’s always there,” said a student.
White also received the 2020 American Chemical Society Teacher of the Year Award for Southeast Arizona, as well as the Rocky Mountain Region.
“The best advice I ever received is that my top kids don’t need me,” White said. “The kids who do a good job are going to do a good job regardless.”
“My takeaway from that is how important it is to look for the kids who are struggling and to look for those kids who might be getting missed by other teachers, and I really try to make that a point where every kid knows they belong here and find a way for every kid to be successful,” White said.
How Arizona honors Top 10 teacher nominees
The Arizona Teacher of the Year prize package includes $15,000 from the Arizona Educational Foundation and travel to National Teacher of the Year events, including a trip to the White House to meet the President and a weeklong trip to International Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. White will also be considered for an honorary doctorate from Northern Arizona University.
The 2023 Arizona Teacher of the Year and four Ambassadors for Excellence – Amber Gould, R. Scott Harnisch, Royd Lee, and Annie Shannahan – also receive professional speech and media training to aid them in delivering hundreds of presentations during their year of recognition.
Arizona Educational Foundation’s generous partners also provide gifts to the Teacher of the Year, Ambassadors for Excellence and Semifinalists Jaime Camero, Zel Fowler, Erin Henderson, Christina Musselman, and Robyn Yewell that include a free membership to Treasures4Teachers, scholarships from the Arizona K12 Center to pursue National Board Certification, the opportunity to ride on the APS fire engine during the Fiesta Bowl Parade, and a “Fiesta Bowl Experience” package including tickets and on-field recognition provided by Fiesta Bowl Charities.
In addition to serving as presenting sponsor of the ceremony for the past three years, Desert Financial Credit Union provides each teacher with an iPad and keyboard case.