Two teachers in the Amphitheater School District have been named finalists for the Arizona Educational Foundation's 2010 Teacher of the Year.
Cindy Rolewski from La Cima Middle School and Beth Malapanes from Canyon Del Oro High School are among 10 finalists up for the award, and the only two from Tucson.
Malapanes has been announced as a semi-finalist. She and four others each received a $1,000 prize.
Rolewski is one of five named as AEF's 2010 Ambassador of Excellence. One will be announced as the 2010 Arizona Teacher of the Year during the foundation's luncheon on Nov. 5.
The Teacher of the Year receives a $20,000 cash reward, a laptop computer, a chance to compete for National Teacher of the Year, and wins a trip to space camp in Huntsville, Ala. Teachers of the year meet the President of the United States, get a full scholarship to Argosy University, earn professional speech training, and receive many other awards and recognition.
The four remaining finalists serve as spokespersons for their profession by making presentations statewide to education, civic, government and professional organizations. They also each receive a $5,000 cash reward, a laptop, professional speech training, and a scholarship from Argosy University for 50 percent of the cost of tuition towards a master's or doctorate in education.
Amphitheater School District trustees acknowledged the finalists during a meeting last Tuesday.
La Cima Middle School's technology teacher Cindy Rolewski has spent 26 of her 28 years teaching with the Amphitheater School District. She also did her student teaching in the district, earning a degree from the University of Arizona and getting her master's degree from Arizona State University.
"It's truly just tremendously humbling and an honor when I think about the teachers that, as an ambassador, I represent," Rolewski said. "I work with a school that has phenomenal teachers. We work together, support each other, and work so hard for kids … to think that I can help support them and represent them. I can let the public know a little about what is happening with public education. It's a good feeling."
When the mother of four first started using computers in the classroom, Rolewski slowly acquired computers from other teachers because her colleagues did not use them or integrate them into the curriculum.
She was using an Apple LCII. Monitors sat on a pizza-box shaped computer that held 40 to 80 megabytes of information and sold for a little over $1,000 in the early '90s. It had a slot for a 3.5-inch floppy disc, but no CD drive.
Today, her computer lab is filled with numerous Hewlett Packard computers running Windows, all equipped with headphones and DVD/CD drives. The computers are loaded with dozens of programs each student learns to use, creating multimedia presentations while learning the basics of computer use such as keyboarding.
Rolewski primarily teaches technology to 6th-grade students, though she also has 7th- and 8th-grade advanced technology classes.
"A lot of it is teaching them just how to access the information, and how to work together," she said. "My frequent answer to their problems when they run into a problem is 'I don't know, why don't you see what you can find or see if someone can help?'
"They all probably think I am clueless," Rolewski joked.
Her joy comes from seeing students solve problems for themselves. They'll raise a hand, and before she arrives, they'll say, "Oh, never mind, I figured it out."
That's what she wants her students to get from her classes, to take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it in the real world and hopefully make a difference.
"I want them to see how their place is not just focused on themselves, but focused on what they can do to make the world a better place," Rolewski said.
Canyon Del Oro's librarian Beth Malapanes was surprised the Arizona Educators Foundation honored a librarian as a possible Teacher of the Year.
"It is kind of amazing because people don't see me as a teacher a lot of times," Malapanes said. "I agree with them in that I don't have a class of kids, but I do help a lot of kids and I help teachers. It is just a different way of teaching."
She said the Arizona Library Association was excited to have a librarian nominated for Teacher of the Year because some schools have been cutting librarians from their budgets.
The Teacher of the Year semi-finalist earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Arizona, then came to CDO in 2001 after working at a local charter school.
When she started working in the library at CDO nine years ago, Malapanes said student enrollment was around 3,100 students. The district then opened Ironwood Ridge High School, and CDO lost nearly half its students.
Due to her involvement and philosophy within the library, she said the book circulation has doubled, bringing in nearly 6,200 patrons to the library each week.
"The first thing I did was surveyed the kids to see what they wanted," Malapanes said. "We got to get new computers, we got Smart Boards, we got new furniture … just trying to make it a little more fun for the kids."
Now, as all students come through the library doors, Malapanes educates them on how to evaluate websites accurately, and how to cite resources found in books and on the Internet. She also lets the students know how to avoid plagiarism within their research.
Previously, Malapanes has been recognized for her educational achievements. She was named Teacher of Year at the 12th annual Outstanding High School Faculty Awards Program for 2006-2007. She was recognized during a University of Arizona men's basketball game and given a $1,000 check that went toward CDO's general fund.