Nancy Parra-Quinlan named 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year - AZEdNews
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Nancy Parra-Quinlan named 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year

Nancy Parra-Quinlan, A A Seventh- And Eighth-grade STEM/CTE Teacher At Kino Junior High School In Mesa Public Schools, Was Named Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2022 Arizona Teacher Of The Year

Nancy Parra-Quinlan, a seventh- and eighth-grade STEM/CTE teacher at  Kino Junior High School in Mesa Public Schools, was named Arizona Educational  Foundation’s 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year during the awards ceremony presented by Desert Financial tonight. Watch the ceremony below.

A veteran teacher for over 27 years, Parra-Quinlan has taught at Kino for the past 15 years. She teaches her junior high students robotics, engineering, aerospace, as well as a medical detectives course.

“Thank you to the Arizona Educational Foundation for the great honor of being named Arizona Teacher of the Year,” Parra-Quinlan said.

Parra-Quinlan was selected from the five 2022 Ambassadors for Excellence that were identified by the foundation last month and announced at the Arizona Educational Foundation’s annual awards ceremony on October 16th, 2021. Jeff Meshey, president and CEO of Desert Financial Credit Union who served as presenting sponsor of the event, presented Parra-Quinlan with the award.

“I’m proud to be a teacher in Arizona, especially at Kino Junior High School,” Parra-Quinlan said. “My co-workers, students and families are the most amazing people.”

2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards

Parra-Quinlan has received numerous accolades during her career, including being named 2nd runner up for the Air Force Association’s National Teacher of the Year and was the Frank Luke Chapter of the Air Force Association’s nominee for 2017 Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year.

She received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and her Master of Education at Northern Arizona University, with Bilingual (Spanish) and ESL endorsement.

Parra-Quinlan thanked her current school principal for supporting the STEM program at the school and continuing to grow it into what it is today. She also thanked her former principal “for having faith and launching our program in the first place.”

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See 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year Nancy Parra-Quinlan in action

Parra-Quinlan is also the director of the Mesa Public School’s summer Aerospace Academy, the coach of the Lego League Robotics team for Kino Junior High, and the sponsor of Kino’s STEM Club, known as “SIMI,” which stands for “STEM Institute for Manufacturing and Innovation.”

“Thank you also to the Patel family, who have turned the tragedy of losing their own son, who had great dreams, into support for our students goals and futures,” Parra-Quinlan said.

Parra-Quinlan also volunteers with the Civil Air Patrol, both as the statewide Assistant Director of Aerospace Education and with the 305th Squadron at Falcon Field in Mesa as the Aerospace Education Officer. She holds the rank of captain in the Civil Air Patrol.

“Thank you to my family who has patiently put up with my nerdiness, extracurricular activities, professional development work and endless talk about my excellent students,” Parra-Quinlan said.

One of reasons Parra-Quinlan was selected by the Teacher of the Year panel was her strong commitment to providing students with real-world skills in STEM as well as Career and Technical Education.

Parra-Quinlan states “Arizona is a magnet for technology companies, including aerospace, electronics and other manufacturing industries. We must sufficiently fund public education in our state in order to prepare our students to work in the industries that will be most abundant in Arizona over the next few decades.”

Parra-Quinlan is an advocate for girls in STEM and believes a focus on STEM career-readiness is vital, especially before students reach high school.

Parra-Quinlan intends to spend her “year of service” as an Arizona Teacher of the Year advocating for STEM education, especially the inclusion of girls and Students of Color, who are vastly underrepresented in STEM careers.

Nancy Parra-Quinlan named 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year 2022-Nancy-7
Nancy Parra-Quinlan, a seventh- and eighth-grade STEM/CTE teacher at Kino Junior High School in Mesa Public Schools, was named Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year

As Arizona’s Teacher of the Year, Parra-Quinlan becomes a candidate for National Teacher of the Year. She will receive $15,000 from the Arizona Educational Foundation as well as a trip to the White House to meet the U.S. President, and will spend a week at International Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. She will also be given professional speech and media training, consideration to receive an honorary doctorate from Northern Arizona University, and an Arizona K12 Center Scholarship. She will also be a participant in the Fiesta Bowl Parade and receive other gifts from corporate sponsors.

All ten teachers received iPads and keyboard cases, courtesy of Desert Financial. “We wanted to give all of the Semifinalists and Ambassadors a little something extra to not only thank them, but to help them remember that Desert Financial continues to support their goals,” said Jeff Meshey.

The Teacher of the Year and Ambassadors have multiple opportunities during the year to make public appearances throughout the state, speaking to professional, civic, educational, parent and student groups. To book an appearance, please contact Kim Graham at

Additionally, AEF named its four Teacher of the Year finalists, called Ambassadors for Excellence, who will serve with Parra-Quinlan as spokespersons for their profession, advocating for excellence in the classroom by making presentations statewide to education, civic, government, and professional organizations.

The four 2022 Ambassadors for Excellence are:

· Jason Catanese (Mathematics), Pueblo Del Sol Elementary School, Isaac School District;

· Ashton Gildea (English), Walden Grove High School, Sahuarita Unified School District;

· Lindsey Peterson (English), Apollo High School, Glendale Union High School District;

· John Carlo Tulinao (General Ed, STEM), Amberlea Elementary School, Pendergast Elementary School District;

“I am honored to receive this award, and I would like to acknowledge the other teachers who share the stage with me tonight,” Parra-Quinlan said. “They are superheroes who put students first and sacrifice so much to make education in Arizona the best it can be.”

Nancy Parra-Quinlan named 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year AEF-TOY-2022-Finalists
The five finalists, known as Ambassadors for Excellence for 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year are (from left to right): Jason Catanese, Ashton Gildea, Nancy Parra-Quinlan, Lindsey Petersen, and John Carlo Tulinao. Photo courtesy Arizona Educational Foundation.

“I would also like to acknowledge all the teachers who are not on this stage. All those teachers who take work home with them to grade, who spend nights and weekends writing lesson plans, who buy things for students out of their own pockets. You all deserve recognition,” Parra-Quinlan said.

“So I would like to ask something of everyone here tonight. Please take a minute to write a note, send an email, or call a teacher you know and thank them,” Parra-Quinlan said.

“Nominate a teacher for an award. There are many out there – even though this award is the best. And even if they don’t win, the fact that you took the time to nominate them is an award in itself,” Parra-Quinlan said.

“This has been a rough year and a half for teachers and it means so much when you tell them that they’re appreciated, that they are noticed for going the extra mile,” Parra-Quinlan said.

“Those acknowledgements mean the world to us in a profession where many people are leaving due to burnout. The validation goes a long way. So please take the time to thank a teacher or many teachers for hanging in there and shaping our future,” Parra-Quinlan said.

“Thank you again for this award. I will do my best to make Arizona teachers proud over the next year,” Parra-Quinlan said.

Five additional teachers were selected as 2022 Semifinalists:

· Jennifer Cheesman (Science), Zuni Hill Elementary, Peoria Unified School District;

· Ashley Crose (Social Sciences), Saguaro High School, Scottsdale Unified School District;

· Jessica England (Music & English Language Arts), Sahuarita Middle School, Sahuarita Unified School District;

· Kristina Laborin (ELA, Social Studies, Gifted Ed.), Old Vail Middle School, Vail Unified School District;

· Alyssa Weed (Music), Acacia Elementary School, Washington Elementary School District.

Nancy Parra-Quinlan named 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year AEF-2022-TOY-semifinalists
The five Semifinalists for 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year are (from left to right): Jennifer Cheesman, Ashley Crose, Jessica England, Kristina Laborin and Alyssa Weed. Photo courtesy Arizona Educational Foundation

“Congratulations to our new Teacher of the Year, the four Ambassadors of Excellence, and our five Semifinalists. These amazing ten educators will continue to help shape the future of education in Arizona,” said Kim Graham, executive director of the Arizona Educational Foundation.

AEF’s annual Teacher of the Year program is the only statewide program to spotlight and honor Arizona’s public school teachers for excellence in teaching. The annual Teacher of the Year program is the premier event of the Arizona Educational Foundation, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to spotlighting the exceptional work of public schools.

“Public schools in Arizona employ some of the best and most dedicated teachers in the state,” Graham said.

“Mrs. Parra-Quinlan and the other teachers honored at the ceremony are outstanding examples of the quality of Arizona’s public school educators,” Graham said. “I have the utmost respect and admiration for all of our teachers and the efforts they make daily to improve the lives of Arizona students.” 

Thanks to its generous sponsors and donors, the Arizona Educational Foundation continues to be able to provide this distinguished award for the 38th consecutive year. For sponsorship inquiries, please contact Kim Graham at