Amanda Barth

Position: Biology Teacher

School: Tanque Verde High School

School District: Tanque Verde

City, State: Tucson , Arizona

About the Nominee: Amanda Barth was nominated by a friend, Mel Blumenthal. Mel states that after sitting in on one of Ms. Barth's classes in which her students were giving presentations, she knew she had to nominate her as a LifeChanger. Ms. Barth is a brilliant scientist, but what makes her truly remarkable is the way in which she is able to transmit her vast knowledge in the area of biology to her students and instill a passion for learning in them. She consistently goes above and beyond normal expectations in her lesson planning and constantly strives to create labs and activities that foster both group and individual learning, as well as a deep appreciation of the subject matter. She organizes classroom outings that facilitate community-based learning in order to enhance her students' knowledge base. Ms. Barth is also incredibly adept at building bridges with members of the local science community in order to give her students better access to different learning platforms. Her devotion and dedication to her students is inspiring and she will often sacrifice her personal time in order to ensure that she is giving them the absolute best possible learning opportunities.

In the classroom, Ms. Barth has an incredible aptitude to turn any moment into a teaching moment. Throughout the student presentations, Mel witnessed how Ms. Barth flawlessly guided her students through their research and was able to speak intelligently and add information to every single research project. There was not one subject she did not demonstrate an advanced working knowledge of! This alone sets her apart from many of her peers, but what is most commendable is how she is able to challenge her students and get them to think through concepts in order to more firmly instill scientific methodology and critical thinking. According to Mel, it's a pleasure to watch her in action in her classroom as she orchestrates the learning process.

Aside from being an exceptional teacher, Ms. Barth has also established herself as an advocate for her students. She is the facilitator for the LGBTQ student group on campus, and many students have identified her as the one teacher they can turn to for help and counsel. It's rare to see a group of high school students request to be able to eat lunch in a teacher's room, but that's what commonly happens with Ms. Barth. She has created a learning environment in her classroom that is not only a safe, inclusive space, but one that is conducive for all students to learn and grow, irrespective of identity. She is a true learning community facilitator and an exceptional educator. Ms. Barth exemplifies the very best of what teaching can and should be!

Maryann Green

Position: Theater Teacher

School: Rincon High School

School District: Tucson Unified School District

City, State: Tucson, Arizona

About the Nominee: Maryann Green is an exceptional teacher, but what makes her truly remarkable is that she is also an exceptional "inspirer." Her passion for theater and her respect for her craft resonates in everything she does in her classroom. Ms. Green has the uncanny ability to grow her students' talents and instill a respect of the stage and all of its attendant features in them. Her devotion and dedication to her students is what sets her apart from other educators. She works tirelessly, going above and beyond to ensure that the right selections regarding plays, scenes and topics are made available to her students. She is an astute fusion of educator and community builder. Within her classroom, she has created a place where students can explore the art of theater and learn in an environment that fosters their natural abilities and helps them develop new skills. Ms. Green gets to know her students well, and that respect is very much reciprocal as evidenced by how the students respond to her. They know they have a fierce and dedicated advocate in Ms. Green, and this is what makes her a standout teacher. She inspires her students to think outside of traditional theater curriculum and see the world through different lenses. One stunning example of this is a few years back, when Ms. Green consulted her students on a show she wanted to produce, "The Laramie Project," which dealt with subject matter regarding LGBTQ content and rights. The students were behind the project 100%, as was the administration at RHS, and rehearsals began with overwhelming support. Somehow, a member of the community got wind of the production and did everything in their power to attempt to get it shut down. Ms. Green stood by her students and the show every step of the way. She sacrificed her own personal time to combat the sabotage attempts, even when her own career was on the line. Despite the media attention and public scrutiny, Ms. Green proved to be a incredible leader and did not waiver in her efforts. If her students wanted the production to proceed, she was going to do everything in her power to ensure that it did. Her efforts eventually paid off, and the show was able to be performed. It's truly remarkable to see an educator of her caliber in action and witness the dedication she has for her students.

For all of these reasons and many more, Ms. Green truly embodies what it means to be a LifeChanger in one's community.

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Aaron Vogel

Position: Band Teacher/Director

School: Westwood High School

School District: Mesa Public Schools

City, State: Mesa, Arizona

About the Nominee: Aaron Vogel was nominated by a colleague, Kari Ramirez. Mr. Vogel has single-handedly turned his school band around! He has helped students grow and learn in a positive, inspiring setting. He is enthusiastic about what his students do and accomplish, and he devotes many hours outside of school to help students achieve their goals.

Mr. Vogel has helped expand the band program, and he led the band to the ABODA State Championship, where they earned the Division II Silver Medal. This is the highest achievement the Westwood Band has ever accomplished. They also took home top honors in the Visual competition. Mr. Vogel has made a positive impact in his students' lives, and he continues to dedicate himself to his students and school.

Kayla Ruhland

Position: English Teacher

School: Westwood High School

School District: Mesa Public Schools

City, State: Mesa, Arizona

About the Nominee: Kayla Ruhland was nominated by her principal, Shoshana Cleary. Ms. Ruhland is a remarkable teacher. When Ms. Cleary first met her three years ago, she knew after interviewing and hiring her that she would be a great teacher. Ms. Ruhland quickly became a teacher that students talked about. She makes connections and genuinely cares about her students and their lives.

When you walk into her classroom, you immediately feel welcome. Students open up and talk about uncomfortable, sensitive or personal topics in their lives. Ms. Ruhland makes students feel safe by listening and doing whatever it takes to ensure they are successful.

In a recent school-wide student survey in which students indicated who their "trusted adult" was on campus, Ms. Ruhland was chosen by 108 students. This is a true testament to her ability to connect with students. In addition, she is an active, engaging teacher in the classroom. She is always student-centered and reflective in her practice, and she is always looking for strategies to improve her teaching.

Outside of the classroom, Ms. Ruhland coaches the color guard for the Marching Band. Historically, the color guard didn't have many students who wanted to participate. Ms. Ruhland has recruited more students and worked closely with the band director to grow the program. Recently, the marching band placed 2nd in the state. The Westwood High community is beyond lucky and grateful to have a teacher like Ms. Ruhland who truly changes the lives of her students on a daily basis!

Katherine Reddy

Position: World History/US History Teacher, Link Crew Coordinator

School: Westwood High School

School District: Mesa Public Schools

City, State: Mesa, Arizona

About the Nominee: Katherine Reddy was nominated by a colleague, Richard Long. Ms. Reddy is one of the most energetic teachers one could meet. She is constantly relating what the students are learning in her classroom to what they are experiencing in their lives. She purposefully and intentionally asks to teach freshmen because she knows what an important year it is in the lives of the mostly low-income community that she serves. Ms. Reddy works tirelessly to make her classroom a safe space for all students. She strives to maintain a rigorous, supportive learning environment in her classroom.

In addition to the work she does in her classroom, Ms. Reddy is also both the History Club sponsor and one of the Link Crew Coordinators. She manages all of the History Club's activities and started the annual Veterans' Heritage Project, where History Club participants are able to connect with and gather the history of a US veteran. It is an invaluable experience for students to gain a personal, intimate look into the life of a veteran.

As a Link Crew Coordinator, she oversees all 130 Upperclassmen that serve as Link Leaders. These Link Leaders serve the 900+ freshmen that attend Westwood High School each year. She manages the Link Leaders as they team up to go into every single freshman World History class on campus and teach lessons to help freshmen connect with their new school. She also organizes yearly Freshman Orientation and Freshman Commencement, where freshmen have opportunities to integrate into Westwood as a school and connect with upperclassmen who can help them throughout the year. Additionally, she organizes specific tutoring sessions for struggling freshmen on campus, where Link Leaders mentor and tutor freshmen who need additional help in class.

Basically, Ms. Reddy is a rock star who spreads positivity wherever she goes. She is constantly looking for opportunities to connect with students and is a very professional teacher with her peers, as well. She literally changes the lives of multiple freshmen, Link Leaders, and History Club participants every single day!