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Arizona's Teacher of the Year is ASU grad, current student


November 16, 2009

She describes herself as “born to teach,” and it shows. Arizona State University graduate Joy Weiss was honored Nov. 5 as Arizona’s 2010 Teacher of the Year by the Arizona Educational Foundation.

“Being a teacher is much more than teaching students, but an opportunity to inspire, encourage and support others to become the best they can be,” says Weiss, a Mesa native who earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education in 1998 and is currently taking graduate courses through ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership (CTEL) to obtain a reading endorsement.

Weiss, who now lives in Phoenix and teaches first grade at Balsz Elementary School, regularly serves as a mentor and role model for future teachers who work as interns and student teachers in her classroom. “These experiences with ASU students push me to continue learning,” she says. “It is so exciting to work with ‘fresh’ minds and gain perspective on your career through new eyes. I am excited to work with each ASU student who enters my classroom.”

Not being one to do things half-heartedly, Weiss also excels in the CTEL reading classes she has been taking at ASU’s West campus. One of her professors, Frank Serafini, describes Weiss as an excellent, dedicated student. “Her work is some of the best I've seen, and her dedication to her students comes through in her work,” says Serafini, an associate professor of literacy education and an award-winning author of children’s books.

Weiss’ current studies at ASU represent a continuation of a mutually beneficial relationship between her and the university. “As an undergraduate I had many professors who pushed me beyond my comfort zone and provided safe environments for me and my fellow students to discuss issues without fear of ridicule or embarrassment,” she says.

In addition to mentoring current college students, Weiss goes above and beyond in a myriad ways at Balsz Elementary School. She trains and supports other Balsz teachers in the integration of technology in the classroom; mentors new teachers; coaches fellow teachers on English Language Development (ELD) issues as well as the school’s new math curriculum; coordinates supplemental summer and fall programs; assists with a weekly Family Night program for the local community and more.

Weiss says her career path was set in her first few weeks of kindergarten. “When I met Mrs. Walker, I knew that someday I would be a teacher,” she says.

“The satisfaction I get from teaching is difficult to express in words because it looks different every day. In some cases it’s from the simple way that I show love to a student who needs extra care that day. Other times it’s the triumphs of students understanding the knowledge that's been taught and being able to help others gain the same understanding. I don't believe there is any other profession that allows such a great opportunity to be an active participant with one’s ‘clients’ – the students.”

The Teacher of the Year honor brings with it a $20,000 award, a laptop computer, a trip to space camp in Huntsville, Ala., and a scholarship to pursue a doctoral degree. Weiss also is now Arizona’s nominee for the National Teacher of the Year award.

“I am very excited for what this honor brings to me,” Weiss says. “The opportunities for professional growth are profound, as well as the chance to work with colleagues around the state and shed new insights on the triumphs and tribulations of education. I look forward to working with others to do my best to bring hope and inspiration back into the classrooms. This award is very humbling, and the process which took me here has made me think very deeply and has shown me who I am at the deepest part of me and what I truly believe as an educator.”