Arizona Educational Foundation's 2021 Teacher of the Year is Sara Wyffels - AZEdNews
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Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2021 Teacher of the Year is Sara Wyffels


2021 AZ Teacher Of The Year Sara Wyffels Thanking Her Students And Family. Photo Courtesy Arizona Educational Foundation.

Sara Wyffels, a Spanish teacher at Chandler High School, is the Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.

“What I’m really passionate about it the power that language has to connect one another,” Wyffels said. “In this time in our world, it seems like the disconnect is larger, that the disconnect is building, and I really feel that learning a language can teach us not only how to articulate ourselves, but also how to really listen to other people.”

“I choose to teach because I truly believe that we can do better in this world,” Wyffels said. “I believe that through teaching Spanish I’m indeed teaching the power of human connections with my students.”

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Sara Wyffels accepting the Arizona Teacher of the Year Award from Arizona Educational Foundation’s Kim Graham.

“The relationship I’ve build with my students has given me the hope and belief that they will make a positive impact in the world,” Wyffels said.

Wyffels was selected from the 2021 Ambassadors for Excellence named last month and announced at the Arizona Educational Foundation’s virtual event this evening hosted by Good Morning Arizona Anchor Javier Soto and sponsored by Desert Financial Credit Union that was viewed by hundreds of Arizona educators, elected officials and business leaders. 

“While the Arizona Teacher of the Year program honors our top 10 teachers,” said Kim Graham, executive director of Arizona Educational Foundation. “It’s really about celebrating all teachers.”

One of Mrs. Wyffels students said, “I think Ms. Wyffels should be chosen Arizona Teacher of the Year for the genuine interest she shows for students as human beings and not just as like subjects in her classroom.”

“My philosophy of teaching is that as an educator I’m not the owner of all the knowledge. I am not the owner of learning, but that I prefer to be into the curiosity with the students and to grow with them and to discover together that it’s not just coming straight from me but that collectively we’re building knowlege and learning skills together,” Wyffels said.

“Our community here at Chandler High School sort of represents all walks of life from religion to race to socioeconomic status,” Wyffels said.

“I really feel like our world is represented here at our school, and that there’s a certain culture and community associated with that feeling that brings us together and that I would even say we celebrate,” Wyffels said.

As she was presented with the Arizona Teacher of the Year Award, Sara Wyffels thanked Arizona Educational Foundation, her friends and family for “believing in me” and Kathy Wiebke of Arizona K12Center for nominating her.

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Sara Wyffels teaching her students online. Photo courtesy Arizona Educational Foundation

“My husband, Ben, helped to push me to finish my application, which is a job, so I did. And Liam and Jonah and my entire family have been my fans through this,” Wyffels said.

“To all my colleagues standing here and especially the World Language Department at Chandler High, the gift of your partnership fills my heart with joy,” Wyffels said.

“Most of all, my students – past and present – you have made me a more balanced human and it is because of you that I have optimism in this world,” Wyffels said.”Muchismas gracias.”

“I’m so thankful to the AEF, the Arizona Educational Foundation, for this honor,” Wyffels said.

Through the generosity of donors, the Arizona Educational Foundation’s Arizona Teacher of the Year will receive $15,000 cash, become Arizona’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year, travel to Washington D.C. to meet the President of the United States (pending each administration), travel to International Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., travel to the National Teacher of the Year Program Induction**, receive a Classroom Makeover by a professional designer, be considered to receive Honorary Doctorate from NAU College of Education, receive an AZ K12 Center Scholarship to pursue National Board Certification, receive three AZK12 Coaching Saturdays, be registered at One National Board Institute and National Board Workshop, be registered for an annual Teacher Leadership Institute, receive professional speech and storytelling training, be honored at a special dinner provided by Fiesta Bowl Charities and on-field recognition at the Fiesta Bowl, be honored in the Fiesta Bowl Parade on the APS fire engine, and receive a one-year membership to Treasures 4 Teachers.

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Sara Wyffels working with her students online

The 2021 Ambassadors for Excellence are :

  • Estevan Carreon, a Special Education teacher at Independence High School in Glendale Union High School District 
  • Hillary Stacey, a Chemistry teacher at Empire High School in Vail Unified School District
  • Jillian Hernandez, a Elementary Education teacher at Puente de Hózhó in Flagstaff Unified School District 
  • Sara Mora, a Career and Technical Education teacher at Wrightson Ridge School in Sahuarita Unified School District

The four Ambassadors for Excellence each receive – thanks to generous donors – $5,000 cash, an AZK12 Center Scholarship to pursue National Board Certification, three AZK12 Coaching Saturdays, registration at One National Board Institute and National Board Workshop and at annual Teacher Leadership Institute, a special dinner provided by Fiesta Bowl Charities and on-field recognition at the Fiesta Bowl, the opportunity to be honored in the Fiesta Bowl Parade on the APS fire engine, and a one-year membership to Treasures 4 Teachers.

Arizona Educational Foundation's 2021 Teacher of the Year is Sara Wyffels AZ-TOY-2021-Top-10-Combined-Landscape
Top row from left to right: Estevan Carreon, Hillary Stacey, Jillian Hernandez, Sara Mora, Sara Wyffels. Bottom row from left to right: Elizabeth Shaw, Jeffrey Mann, Nicole Powell, Sharisse Nunes, Shaylyn Savage

Five exceptional 2021 semi-finalists were also named:

  • Elizabeth Shaw, a Social Studies teacher at Rincon Vista Middle School in Vail Unified School District
  • Jeffrey Mann, a World History teacher in Flowing Wells High School in Flowing Wells Unified School District
  • Nicole Powell, a Elementary Education teacher at Las Sendas Elementary in Mesa Public Schools
  • Sharisse Nunes, an Elementary Education teacher at Falcon Hill Elementary in Mesa Public Schools
  • Shaylyn Savage, a Special Education teacher at Sunset Ridge Elementary School in Pendergast Elementary School District

Thanks to the generosity of donors, the five semi-finalists will receive $1,000 cash, AZK12 Center Teacher Leadership Institute registration, a Special dinner provided by Fiesta Bowl Charities and on-field recognition at the Fiesta Bowl , an opportunity to be honored in the Fiesta Bowl Parade on the APS fire engine, and a one-year membership to Treasures 4 Teachers.

Arizona Educational Foundation's 2021 Teacher of the Year is Sara Wyffels 2021-AZ-Teacher-of-the-Year-Sara-Wyffels
2021 AZ Teacher of the Year Sara Wyffels thanking her students and family. Photo courtesy Arizona Educational Foundation.