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Santa Maria Middle School
Attitude + Attendance + Achievement = Success
STEM Club students in a classroom pose for the camera from their desks

SMMS Staff

At Santa Maria Middle School, our caring, compassionate, highly qualified teachers and our experienced support staff are committed to providing an outstanding middle school experience for your child and to helping our students achieve to the best of their ability.

Administration

Jonathan Short
Principal
P: (623) 707-1100
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Biography

About Jonathan Short

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Helen Nance
Assistant Principal/TOSA
P: (623) 707-1100
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Biography

About Helen Nance

Education

BA Elementary Education & Library Science - Northern Arizona University, Reading Specialist Degree - University of Phoenix, MA Education Administration - Ottawa University

Experience

I started my teaching career at Superior High School in Superior, Arizona as the media center specialist. Before teaching Head Start in Independence, Missouri, I substitute taught in every grade and just about every subject. When I returned to the valley of the sun, I became the media center specialist for Pueblo del Sol Middle School before transferring to SMMS. At Santa Maria, I have enjoyed being the media center specialist and the reading interventionist for 20 years.

Why I Teach

Teaching gives me the power to create dreamers. Teaching is complex and demanding and is one of the most honorable professions that exists. As a teacher, I serve as a facilitator, learner, leader, and always a student advocate. I believe education is not just a profession of teaching, it is a profession of learning. I teach because children are our future. And yes, we might not know what that future looks like, but what we do know is that children are curious, competent learners. Every day I come to work and do my best to provide a safe, warm, encouraging learning environment. I consider myself lucky to have such a vital role in a child's education, to play a part in influencing their future, to make a difference in the impact of what our children will create for our future.
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Luz Vaquez
TOSA
P: (623) 707-1100
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Biography

About Luz Vaquez

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Office Staff

Wanda Bishop
Social Worker
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Biography

About Wanda Bishop

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Maria Carroll
Attendance Clerk
P: (623) 707-1052
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Biography

About Maria Carroll

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Maria Contreras
RTC Monitor
P: (623) 707-1100
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Biography

About Maria Contreras

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Dafney Russell
Secretary
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Biography

About Dafney Russell

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Sixth Grade

Lory Banuelos
Language Arts
P: (623) 707-1126
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Biography

About Lory Banuelos

Education

Hello! My name is Lory Banuelos, and I am the 6th grade ELA teacher. I graduated from GCU in April of 2020 with a bachelors in psychology.

Experience

This is my first year teaching at Santa Maria, however, I was previously the media specialist for five years.

Why I Teach

I knew I wanted to work with kids but never knew what route my life would take. I have been working at Santa Maria for six years before I saw myself in a teaching position. I love to read and would love to nurture and encourage that with my students. I also I wanted to create a space of safety and creativity for the kids and a place where I can encourage them to be themselves.

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Edward Caro
Social Studies
P: (623) 707-7183
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Biography

About Edward Caro

Education

BA Education - University of Arizona

Experience

10 years, nine with FESD

Why I Teach

I teach because I care about the students in our community. I want to inspire and give our students hope in my classroom. I want our students to learn that education is the key to improving the possibilities for the future. As the world becomes smaller through technology, I feel that it's important for the younger generation to become familiar with the world around them. I would like students to realize that the world, albeit different in many parts, is full of wonder and generosity that should be discovered with an open mind and heart.
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Ismael Gonzales
Math
P: (623) 707-1080
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Biography

About Ismael Gonzales

Education

MA Teaching

Experience

10+ Years

Why I Teach

I teach so that students will not need me. My ultimate goal is to create self motivated and lifelong learners. I want my students to use all the resources and tools available to them and have the awareness to know what they do not know and learn it. Gone should be the days when the student thinks that the teacher is the only way to learn but one of many.
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Jennifer Hodges
Math
P: (623) 707-1129
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Biography

About Jennifer Hodges

Education

Bachelor of Science in Middle Childhood - Early Adolescent Education with a mathematics minor from the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. Master of Science in Educational Psychology from University of Wisconsin - Madison. 

Experience

I have experience with teaching 4th grade as well as 6th–8th math and 6th grade ELA. I have taught 6th grade math at SMMS since moving to Arizona.

Why I Teach

I teach because I believe in the importance of quality education. I believe all students deserve the right to have a quality education that affords them the opportunity to do whatever they want to do once they enter society after school. I teach because I want to help students find what they are passionate about and help them in their process to do what they want to do post school.
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Janice Irby
Science
P: (623) 707-1131
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Biography

About Janice Irby

Education

MA Elementary Education

Experience

24 years teaching six-grade science

Why I Teach

Children today are living in a world of new and ever changing possibilities. I teach so I can help kids develop into adults who not only function and contribute but who thrive and lead the next generation. The influences children have are not always conducive and supportive of education. Making sure school is a fun, safe, and positive experience frees up young minds to wonder and discover the mysteries of life, which helps them grow and learn. I teach because I enjoy being with young people and helping them find the wonder in our world.
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Kamila Jelani
Social Studies
P: (623) 707-1128
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Biography

About Kamila Jelani

Education

BA History, MEd Secondary Education

Experience

I have experience in teaching eighth grade and 11th grade in high school. I student taught at Granada East Elementary School.

Why I Teach

I teach social studies because I want to help the next generation become culturally aware citizens. I care about our students and want to create a positive space for them to feel safe and secure while at school. I want to teach our students to be mindful and aware of how their actions influence and impact others.
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Seventh Grade

Jerry Borunda
Language Arts
P: (623) 707-1068
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Biography

About Jerry Borunda

Education

BA - Arizona State University, MA Education - University of Arizona

Experience

11 years

Why I Teach

It is important to help young people learn and succeed in life. I do what I can to teach my students the skills they will need to succeed throughout their educational careers. As a child, I attended Santa Maria Middle School and am proud to teach here as an adult.
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Juan Jimenez
Math
P: (623) 707-1130
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Biography

About Juan Jimenez

Education

MA Special Education

Experience

Four years

Why I Teach

My goal in teaching is to lead our students into a more academic-friendly mindset. I enjoy sharing my subject knowledge and continuing the flow of information to the next generation. It's important it instill in our students the idea that learning is a cycle that repeats and must be continued.
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Nicole Orton
Language Arts
P: (623) 707-1078
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Biography

About Nicole Orton

Education

BA Elementary Education

Experience

10 years in seventh grade at SMMS

Why I Teach

I choose to teach because as a child I struggled in elementary school, and I had a few teachers who worked with me by going above and beyond their job title to assist me. I feel like I owe it to the future to teach my students in a way those teachers taught me because their patience allowed me to become a successful student.
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William Van Liew
Social Studies
P: (623) 707-1091
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Biography

About William Van Liew

Education

BS Communications - Grand Canyon University, MEd Elementary Education - Grand Canyon University

Experience

Two years - Rancho Solano Prep (third grade), Two years - Camelback Academy (third–fifth grade), Five years - SMMS (seventh grade)

Why I Teach

My love for teaching began at a very young age due to being the oldest of six children. I started out teaching my younger siblings about sports and life. By the age of sixteen, I was coaching them in organized sports, mostly soccer, baseball, and wrestling. When my siblings grew up, I stopped coaching and was working in the restaurant business. One night, a gentleman approached me and told me I had coached his son in baseball and he had been looking for me to tell me how grateful he was for the positive impact I had on his son. As I watched him walk away, I realized what I needed to do, and the next day I enrolled in the Master of Education program at Grand Canyon University.
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Theresa Webber
Math
P: (623) 707-1065
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Biography

About Theresa Webber

Education

BS Elementary Education - Emphasis in Mathematics - Grand Canyon University

Experience

The fall of 2020 began my third year as a classroom teacher after two years as a substitute. During school, I worked for four years as an educational assistant in grades K through 8. Prior to that, I spent many years volunteering for local elementary schools that my nieces and nephew attended.

Why I Teach

I teach because I believe all children deserve a quality education. I had a couple of incredible teachers during my education whose patience and understanding have had an effect on my life to this day. I hope to be that for my students as well.

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Caleb Willow
Science
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Biography

About Caleb Willow

Education

ASU, Bachelor of English

Experience

Began teaching in 2019
Certified Yoga Instructor, 2012

Why I Teach

Caleb Willow comes from a long line of educators and has always had a passion for educating the youth to better prepare them for their future. He believes that all his students are valuable for the continued success of our society and approaches every class with the mindset that if you are in his class, you should be learning. A firm believer in peer-to-peer mediation, he manages his classroom by holding students accountable for their actions and expects that their conflicts with each other can be resolved if they learn how to communicate, apologize, and work together for future successes. Mr. Willow has managed small businesses before entering the education field and feels that his real-world experiences and his interactions with people from all walks of life has prepared him for working with the young adults in his classroom. He has found a strong support system at Santa Maria Middle School and looks forward to many more years at the school. He is excited about working with your child on how they can be a better student and an even better human.

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Eighth Grade

Angelica Boladas
Science
P: (623) 707-1092
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Biography

About Angelica Boladas

Education

BS Elementary Education, Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan

Experience

Ten years of teaching in the Philippines. This is my first year in Santa Maria.

Why I Teach

I teach because it brings joy to know that others learn from me. It gives a sense of fulfillment when they apply in real life the knowledge they acquired in school. With that, it reminds me of the crucial role that teachers play in society as persons responsible for molding the minds of learners to create a better world as they grow. For me, nothing beats the noble feeling of having changed someone positively and helped them reach their potential one day at a time. 

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Tristan Hutchenson
Math
P: (623) 707-1074
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Biography

About Tristan Hutchenson

Education

BA - Arizona State University

Experience

Nine years teaching, eight years here at SMMS

Why I Teach

I teach math for the same reasons I go running or take pictures. Math lights up my brain. I love puzzles and a good challenge, and math is all puzzles and a good challenge.
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Nailah Robinson-Goss
ELA
P: (623) 707-1071
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Biography

About Nailah Robinson-Goss

Education

Associate of Arts degree in Human Services
Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology
Currently working on a Master of Education degree in Secondary Education graduating spring 2022.

Experience

Substitute teaching five years
Second year teaching in the Fowler Elementary School District
First year teaching at SMMS

Why I Teach

I love teaching because I like the light that sparks in the students' eyes when they finally get what I have been trying to teach them. I have loved English language arts since I was in elementary school. My mother taught me how to read and write before I entered pre-k, and I have been in love with it ever since. I want to share that love of reading and writing with the students.

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Donald Seago
Language Arts
P: (623) 707-1072
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Biography

About Donald Seago

Education

BA Communications, Arizona State University

Experience

This is my second year of teaching.

Why I Teach

Teaching came to me later in life, after time in the private sector. It became obvious that I would be happier working with students and preparing them for the future rather than helping the already rich accumulate more wealth. Teaching social studies allows me not only to help students understand the history of the world around them but also create a better understanding of what is going on outside of the classroom.
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Bill Stewart
Social Studies
P: (623) 707-1075
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Biography

About Bill Stewart

Education

BS Administration, MA Education, MA Administration

Experience

I have over a decade and a half of experience molding young minds.

Why I Teach

I teach because the most valuable asset in the world is the mind of a child. I love being able to help my students learn right from wrong. Also, teaching them to evaluate the past as well as facts to make sound decisions is the greatest feeling in the world.
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Jaime Tres
Science
P: (623) 707-1077
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Biography

About Jaime Tres

Education

MA Educational Leadership, BS Criminal Justice

Experience

Three years experience, Highly Qualified social studies teacher

Why I Teach

Teaching is my second career. My first career was in law enforcement. I have always been driven to help others. As a teacher, I see the fantastic opportunity to help children grow and learn so they can make good decisions and become incredible adults. Teaching is a passion that allows me to combine my unique experiences with the learning process to better prepare our youth to succeed in today's world.
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Karen Yanez
Math
P: (623) 707-1064
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Biography

About Karen Yanez

Education

Arizona State University

Experience

Two years - teacher assistant

Why I Teach

I choose to teach to try to make a difference for younger generations in mathematics and try to help them gain the math skills they need in life.
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Educational Resource Teachers

Lindsey Comandini
Reading Interventionist
P: (623) 707-1068
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Biography

About Lindsey Comandini

Education

BA English Education - University of Arizona, MA Curriculum & Instruction - Arizona State University

Experience

18 years teaching experience

Why I Teach

I teach to make a positive impact on young students' lives. I want to help young people find educational success as well as personal, later in life. I grew up in the Fowler Elementary School District, attending both Sunridge and Fowler, so I definitely wanted to teach in this district and make a difference.
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Dolores Perea
ELD
P: (623) 707-1094
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Biography

About Dolores Perea

Education

Univserity of Arizona

Experience

Seven Years at TG Barr Elementary, Six Years at SMMS

Why I Teach

I teach because it is a job that I wake to with excitement for the adventures, challenges, and triumphs each day brings. I teach because it is my passion to shape, nurture, and inspire students. I teach to help students realize their potential and empower them with knowledge. I teach to help build a better future.
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Exploratory

Rene Contreras
PE
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Biography

About Rene Contreras

Education

Texas A&M International University

Experience

One year

Why I Teach

I teach because I want to positively impact students' lives by helping them reach their fullest potential both inside and outside of the classroom. Since high school, I knew I wanted to be a PE teacher because of my passion for sports, and I wanted to be able to help shape the lives of others just like many of my past teachers have done for me.   

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Jay Harrison
PE
P: (623) 707-1099
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Biography

About Jay Harrison

Education

MPE in Physical Education - Arizona State University
BA in Marketing with Minors in Portuguese and Economics - Utah State University

Experience

Eight years

Why I Teach

After I left business, I wanted to do something that I was passionate about: teaching physical education (PE). Throughout my life, I either participated in athletics or took PE courses to help alleviate the stress in my life and to push myself physically and mentally. As an educator, I want my students to have that same passion - that anything is possible if they do their best and never give up!

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Victoria Hernandez
Media Center
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Biography

About Victoria Hernandez

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Lisa Padilla
Art Teacher
P: (623) 707-1076
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Biography

About Lisa Padilla

Education

BA Education, MS Education, National Board Certified Teacher

Experience

15 years

Why I Teach

When my son was born with special needs, I felt like I needed a career change. I wanted a profession where I was making a difference in the world. I feel that teaching is the most important job anyone can have. My hope is that I can positively impact every student that comes through my room.
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Xavier Yanez
Band
P: (623) 707-1096
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Biography

About Xavier Yanez

Education

BA Music Education

Experience

20 years

Why I Teach

I teach because I care about children and because I want the world to be a better place. I teach to inspire, encourage, and motivate through music. It may be a cliché, but it's at the heart of why so many music educators brave the negative press—to make a difference.
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Special Education

Nicole Bourgeois Horne
Self-Contained
P: (623) 707-1121
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Biography

About Nicole Bourgeois Horne

Education

BA Special Education, M.Ed. Instructional Technology, National Board Certified - Exceptional Needs

Experience

26 years

Why I Teach

I teach because I understand the importance of an education, and I understand that education comes in all forms. A classroom that addresses all student needs is a successful teaching strategy and a win-win situation for our learners. I know that student achievement has to include not only the school but the community as a whole, and I enjoy being a part of the solution that includes education.
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Ashley Rain
Self-Contained
P: (623) 707-1128
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Biography

About Ashley Rain

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Lindsay Sattler
Self-Contained Cross Category
P: (623) 707-1123
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Biography

About Lindsay Sattler

Education

Certificate of Education and Certificate of Special Education, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Experience

I moved to Phoenix after I graduated college and have been teaching at Santa Maria ever since.

Why I Teach

I teach because I am love to help students discover their own potential. As a special education teacher, I get to help my students realize are more than their disability and can feel good about themselves. There is nothing better than having students realize they can succeed more than they ever thought possible.
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