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Arizona Educational Foundation names five finalists for 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year


Kim Graham | 615-509-7422

Arizona Educational Foundation names five finalists for Teacher of the Year

September 2nd, 2021 – Five teachers have been named finalists for the Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year Award, presented by Desert Financial.

These five finalists, known as “Ambassadors for Excellence,” are in the running for Arizona Teacher of the Year, which will be announced during the awards ceremony on October 16th at 5:30pm. The five semifinalists, while no longer in the running for the award, remain part of the “2022 Top Ten Teachers of the Year” and will be honored during the awards ceremony and at various events throughout next year.

The winner will be named the 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year and go on to become Arizona’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year. Winnings for the Arizona Teacher of the Year include $15,000 from the Arizona Educational Foundation and travel paid to attend National Teacher of the Year events including a trip to the White House to meet the U.S. President and a weeklong trip to International Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. They are also considered for an honorary doctorate from Northern Arizona University. The 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year and four Ambassadors for Excellence also receive professional speech and media training to aid them in delivering hundreds of presentations during their year of recognition. AEF also has generous partners who provide gifts to the top ten teachers including a free membership to Treasures4Teachers, scholarships from the Arizona K12 Center to pursue National Board Certification, on-field recognition during the Fiesta Bowl, and the opportunity to ride on the APS fire engine during the Fiesta Bowl Parade.

The annual Teacher of the Year program is the premier event of the Arizona Educational Foundation, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to spotlighting and championing the exceptional work of public schools. Information on donating to or sponsoring the Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards is available here.

Ambassadors for Excellence

The five finalists, known as Ambassadors for Excellence, are:

From left to right:

Jason Catanese, 7th/8th Grade Mathematics, Pueblo del Sol Middle School, Isaac School District; Ashton Gildea, 11th/12th Grade English, Walden Grove High School, Sahuarita Unified School District; Nancy Parra-Quinlan, 7th/8th Grade STEM/CTE, Kino Junior High School, Mesa Public School; Lindsey Peterson, 9th-12th Grade English, Apollo High School, Glendale Union High School District; John Carlo Tulinao, 1st Grade Music & STEM, Amberlea Elementary School, Pendergast Elementary School District.


The five Semifinalists also will be celebrated during the Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards.

From left to right:

Jennifer Cheesman, 6th Grade Science, Zuni Hills Elementary, Peoria Unified School District; Ashley Crose, 10th-12th Grade Social Sciences, Saguaro High School, Scottsdale Unified School District; Jessica England, 6th-8th Grade Music, English Language Arts, Sahuarita Middle School, Sahuarita Unified School District; Kristina Laborin, 7th/8th Grade ELA/Social Studies/Gifted Ed, Old Vail Middle School, Vail Unified School District; Alyssa Weed, K-6th Music, Acacia Elementary, Washington Elementary School District.

Sara Wyffels, a Spanish teacher at Chandler High School in the Chandler Unified School District, is the reigning 2021 Arizona Teacher of the Year. Learn more about Sara and the 2021 Ambassadors for Excellence at here.

For more information, contact Kim Graham, at or (480) 421-9376.

About Arizona Educational Foundation:

The mission of AEF is to identify, support and celebrate excellence in Pre-K-12th grade Arizona public education through business and community partnerships. We do this through a variety of programs for teachers, administrators, and students. Some of our programs shine a spotlight on excellence; others provide a stepping stone to help support schools and educators on the road to awesomeness. In addition to the Arizona Teacher of the Year program, AEF also coordinates the Arizona State Spelling Bee, the A+ School of Excellence Award, the Principals Leadership Academy of Arizona, teachSTEM, and Take Your Legislator to School. AEF was founded in 1983 by then State Superintendent of Public Education, Carolyn Warner, who felt a nonprofit needed to be established to champion public education and recognize the great work of public school educators.

About Desert Financial Credit Union:

Celebrating more than 80 years in Arizona, Desert Financial is the state's largest local credit union with over $7 billion in assets, 350,000+ members and 46 branches. Membership eligibility is open across most of Arizona with contactless solutions via eBranch, making it easy to call, click or come in. As a not-for-profit cooperative, Desert Financial takes pride in sharing success. In 2020, members received $14 million in dividends via the Member Giveback Bonus, and Desert Financial gave more than $5 million in COVID-19 relief plus donations, scholarships and Random Acts of Kindness to our members, community and team. Learn more at


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