Teacher of the Year

The AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year program spotlights the contributions of outstanding public school teachers throughout Arizona.

The Teacher of the Year program annually recognizes 10 exceptionally skilled and dedicated pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public school teachers. Nominees are those individuals who have gained the respect and admiration of students, parents, and co-workers. They play an active and useful role in their communities as well as their schools, often distinguishing themselves as leaders. They have a superior ability to help all students achieve.

The nomination and application periods for AEF’s 2015 Arizona Teacher of the Year are now closed. The 2015 Arizona Teacher of the Year Luncheon  was held on Thursday, November 20th, 2014, at the Arizona Biltmore.

A special broadcast of the 2015 Teacher of the Year awards will air on Eight HD (8.1) at 9:00 p.m on January 23rd, 2015.


Congratulations to the 2015 Teacher of the Year, Ambassadors for Excellence and Semi-Finalists:

Teacher of the Year:

  • John-David Bowman, 11th and 12th grade IB Theory of Knowledge/AP US History, Westwood High School, Mesa (Mesa Public School District) 

Ambassadors for Excellence:

  • Kaci Heins, 6th grade Science teacher, Northland Preparatory Academy, Flagstaff (Public Charter School)
  • Kevin Kehl, 9th – 12th grade Bioscience/Biology, Andrada Polytechnic High School, Tucson  (Vail Unified School District)
  • Margie Looney, 5th – 12th grade Orchestra, Willcox Middle and High School, Willcox (Willcox Unified School District)
  • Jeffrey Taylor, 10th – 12th grade AP Environmental Science/AP Chemistry, Flagstaff High School, Flagstaff (Flagstaff Unified School District)

Semi-Finalists:

  • Angela Guerra, 5th grade, Sahuarita Intermediate School, Sahuarita (Sahuarita Unified School District) 
  • Holly Kain, 10th – 12th grade Social Studies, Hamilton High School, Chandler (Chandler Unified School District)
  • Jack Murphy, 5th grade, Centennial Elementary School, Tucson (Flowing Wells Unified School District)
  • Christopher Raso, 7th grade Social Studies, Canyon Ridge School, Surprise (Dysart Unified School District)
  • Suzanne Vogt, 11th grade AP U.S. History, Trevor Browne High School, Phoenix  (Phoenix Union High School District)

About the Teacher of the Year Program


When Does It Happen?

  • April, 2015 – Applications become available to schools and teachers statewide
  • August 28th, 2015 - Applications are due to Arizona Educational Foundation
  • Late September/Early October, 2015 - Finalists are notified and interviews are conducted
  • Late November, 2015 - 2016 Teacher of the Year is named – to purchase tickets or tables for the award luncheon, please click here: TOY Luncheon Tickets

How Does It Work?

Teachers may self-nominate, be nominated by a student, co-worker, administrator, school or district committee, friend or family member to apply for the award.  To be considered for the award, teacher candidates must submit a written application that is reviewed by a panel of judges consisting of educators, students and members of the business community. Ten finalists are selected from the written applications. The 10 finalists are asked to prepare a 15-minute DVD teaching in the classroom. The final selection process includes review of the DVD, an interview and an impromptu speech by each of the 10 finalists. Following that process, the Teacher of the Year is selected, four “Ambassadors for Excellence” are selected and five remain semi-finalists. All 10 are honored at the annual awards luncheon. 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. Former Teachers of the Year, Ambassadors and Semi-Finalists are ineligible to reapply for the award.


What Are the Rewards?

The Teacher of the Year

  • Receives $15,000 cash award
  • Becomes Arizona’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year*
  • Attends International Space Camp in Huntsville, AL
  • Meets the President of the United States/attends National Teacher of the Year ceremony at White House
  • Receives a full scholarship toward an advanced degree at Argosy University/Phoenix
  • Receives professional speech training
  • Is considered by the Arizona Board of Regents to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Northern Arizona University and is invited to serve as an adjunct professor for one year at NAU
  • Serves for one year as an advocate for the teaching profession by making public appearances statewide, speaking to professional, business, education, civic, parent and student groups
  • Receives equipment and training from SMART Technologies, ULC ($6,747 value)
  • From the Arizona K12 Center receives: $1,900 scholarship toward National Board Certification; 3 coaching Saturdays; registration at National  Board Summer Institute, Teacher Leadership Institute and Working Retreat
  • Receives a “Teacher of the Year” ring or lapel pin from Herff Jones
  • Receives Microsoft Office 2013 from Microsoft
  • Receives a school-wide ice cream party compliments of Blue Bell Creameries
  • Participates in the Fiesta Bowl Parade
  • Is given a one-year membership to Treasures 4 Teachers

The 4 Ambassadors

  • Receive a $5,000 cash award
  • Receive professional speech training
  • Receive a scholarship from Argosy University for 50% of the cost of tuition toward an advanced degree
  • From the Arizona K12 Center receive: $1,900 scholarship toward National Board Certification; 3 coaching Saturdays; registration at National  Board Summer Institute, Teacher Leadership Institute and Working Retreat
  • Serve for one year as an advocate for the teaching profession by making public appearances statewide, speaking to professional, business, education, civic, parent and student groups
  • Receive a schoolwide ice cream party compliments of Blue Bell Creameries
  • Receive SMART Technology for the classroom ($1,553 value)
  • Participate in the Fiesta Bowl Parade
  • Receive Microsoft Office 2013 from Microsoft
  • Receive a one-year membership to Treasures 4 Teachers

The 5 Semi-Finalists

  • Receive a $1,000 cash award
  • Receive a scholarship from Argosy University for 25% of the cost of tuition toward an advanced degree
  • From the Arizona K12 Center, receive complimentary registration at the Annual Teacher Leadership Institute
  • Receive a schoolwide ice cream party compliments of Blue Bell Creameries
  • Receive SMART Technology for the classroom ($1,553 value)
  • Participate in the Fiesta Bowl Parade
  • Receive Microsoft Office 2013 from Microsoft
  • Receive a one-year membership to Treasures 4 Teachers

*The National Teacher of the Year (NTOY) program is the oldest and most prestigious honors program to focus public attention on excellence in teaching. It is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in partnership with Voya Foundation and People to People Ambassador Programs.