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Kim Graham

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PHOENIX, AZ, OCTOBER 17TH, 2021 - Nancy Parra-Quinlan, a 7th and 8th grade STEM/CTE teacher at Kino Junior High in the Mesa Public Schools district, is the Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year.

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.

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. 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 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.” 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.

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.

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;

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.

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,” says Kim Graham, Executive Director of the Arizona Educational Foundation. “Mrs. Parra-Quinlan and the other teachers honored at the ceremony are outstanding examples of the quality of Arizona’s public school educators. 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.” said Graham.

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

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