Gloria Day is an excellent teacher.
With more than 220 students in 10 classes every day, the Marana Unified School District music teacher has to travel to two schools just to teach them all. The music and band instructor at Butterfield and Coyote Trail Elementary schools also volunteers her extra time to lead a school chorus, plan and manage school assemblies and even write, direct and organize many of the schools' plays, concerts and other performances.
While she is continually trying to improve upon her more than 20 years of music education experience, Day doesn't need any awards to tell how well she is doing her job. When she hears a group of 25 fourth graders play a tune on the recorder that they did not know an hour earlier, albeit a little off key and a little off tempo, she knows.
"Understanding and appreciating music integrates itself into every part of a child's education," Day said between classes last week. "I get to be an important part of that monumental experience."
However, that has not stopped the awards from coming to her or a growing number of other faculty in the Marana Unified School District, recognized this year for their exemplary performance by a multitude of state associations.
As 2003 Arizona Music Educator of the Year, Day epitomizes the recognition her district has received this year. To date, MUSD faculty has been honored with the three out of four of the state's most prestigious school-counseling awards, top honors in music education, a Teacher of the Year award at Mountain View High School and a flurry of other recognitions for district administrators.
According to district officials, the staff's growing recognition is being reflected in performance evaluations and district-wide accolades. This year, five of the district's 17 schools are recognized as Arizona A+ winners, with two additional schools still waiting to hear if they will be awarded the honor. The district is also home to three No Child Left Behind-Blue Ribbon schools.
The Arizona A+ program distinguishes individual schools in the state that exemplify successful learning programs and overall achievement in a variety of subjectively judged categories.
The No Child Left Behind-Blue Ribbon Schools Program, administered through the U.S. Department of Education, honors public and private schools that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement.
According to its Web site, the program requires schools to meet either of two assessment criteria. It recognizes schools with 40 percent of its students from disadvantaged backgrounds that dramatically improve student performance in accordance with state assessment systems; and rewards schools that score in the top 10 percent the same assessments.
Among the awarded MUSD staff are counselors Kathy McKinley and Hollis Hemingway. McKinley was named Arizona Middle School Counselor of the Year for her work at Marana Middle School. Hemingway took the similar honor in the high school category as a counselor at Mountain View High School.
Like Hemingway, psychology teacher Kevin Corner brought another prestigious honor to Mountain View this year as one of the five recipients of the Arizona Education Foundation's 2002 Teachers of the Year award. A different MVHS teacher has been awarded with the honor every year since 1999, with five award winners since 1997.
"It just shows that the district is committed to hiring good teachers," MVHS Associate Principal Susan Sloan said. "The best that are available make their way to [MUSD] because there's a reputation for being that good."
In addition to teachers and other faculty at MUSD, recent accolades for administrators have boosted the reputation of the district that encompasses 550 square miles of Marana and north Tucson.
Governing board member Janice Mitich was named 2003 Advocate of the Year by the Arizona School Counselors Association for bolstering counseling programs throughout the district, while Superintendent Wade McLean, a 2002 Arizona School Ad-ministrators' Super-intendent of the Year, was chosen by the town of Marana as its 2003 Man of the Year.
While so many teachers and administrators have been recognized for their individual work in the district, the collective achievement of the faculty at each school strives to push MUSD even further.
"Teachers like [Gloria Day] are more than a motivator for other faculty to do more than just 'teach,'" Butterfield Principal Rocco Sugameli says. "They show people outside the district what we have to offer."