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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

Dr. Desiree Castillo
Principal
P: (623) 707.1100
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Biography

About Dr.Desiree Castillo

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Christopher Gooden
Assistant Principal
P: (623) 707.1100
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Biography

About Christopher Gooden

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Claudia Serrano
Counselor
P: (623) 707.1100
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Biography

About Claudia Serrano

Education

BA - Arizona State University, MEd - Northern Arizona University, MAPC - Ottawa University

Experience

I entered the world of education recently but worked in the area of mental health/social services for the past 15 years. Some of my previous experience involved working with individuals from various back rounds with an array of unique circumstances. I spent over 10 years in social services, including mental health counseling through the Department of Child Services. More recently, I worked with a special population of unaccompanied migrant children recently arriving in the United States. I've had the pleasure to observe individuals reach their best potential under dire circumstances. I feel blessed to be part of an individual's growth and overall wellness.

Why I Teach

I truly believe that education is the #1 equalizer of our society. As a first-generation American, I benefitted from the opportunities afforded to me through my educational endeavors. I truly believe in the power of learning! Educational success can create a direct pathway to help facilitate personal growth and fulfillment. In my first year as a school counselor, I hope I can bring a unique perspective to the school environment and motivate more of our youth to pursue higher education.
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Office Staff

Isaura Bencomo
Secretary
P: (623) 707.1100
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Biography

About Isaura Bencomo

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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Odalis Gonzalez
Health Aide
P: (623) 707.1055
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Biography

About Odalis Gonzalez

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Anthony Lozoya
ELL Tester
P: (623) 707.1081
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Biography

About Anthony Lozoya

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Michael Martinez
Psychologist
P: (623) 707.1056
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Biography

About Michael Martinez

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Sixth Grade

Lory Banuelos
Language Arts
P: (623) 707.1085
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Biography

About Lory Banuelos

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Edward Caro
Social Studies
P: (623) 707.1123
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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) 707.1124
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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

BA Middle Childhood/Early Adolescent Education and a minor in Math, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Experience

I have taught at the second, third, and fourth grade as well as sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade math. I have also taught sixth-grade English language arts.

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) 707.1132
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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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Amelia Sanchez
Language Arts
P: (623) 707.1126
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Biography

About Amelia Sanchez

Education

BA - Grand Canyon University

Experience

Sixth-grade ELA for two years, at SMMS for six years

Why I Teach

I have known that I wanted to be a teacher ever since I was in the third grade. I had one teacher specifically, who made me fall in love with education. Teachers change lives. We might not change all of them, but it's that ONE that counts and makes everything worthwhile. My heart belongs in the classroom. I devote myself completely to my students. I laugh with them, joke with them, learn with them, but sometimes my heart aches for them. Life is not how it was 20 years ago. Our kids are faced with dark challenges at home and are growing up in a digital world. We have kids who don't eat, sleep, or even have a home. I teach because I hope that their 59 minutes in my classroom each day puts a smile on their face. I teach because I want to give them hope. I teach because I want my students to feel that they can be anything they want in this world. I teach because this is what I was born to do.
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Dori Steinkamp
Science
P: (623) 707.1131
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Biography

About Dori Steinkamp

Education

BA Child Development

Experience

Five years in Arizona, and over 10 years volunteering time in many different classrooms

Why I Teach

I chose teaching as a way to help children become successful in life. Teaching has been my passion for many years, ever since I saw the struggles my own children had when it came to learning. I wanted to be the teacher to help all students, not just some. I truly believe that all children will learn if given guidance and a chance to learn.
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Seventh Grade

Lindsey Comandini
Language Arts
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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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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Jason Kibsey
Science
P: (623) 707.1077
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Biography

About Jason Kibsey

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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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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Donald Seago
Social Studies
P: (623) 707.1080
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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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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) 707.1083
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Biography

About Theresa Webber

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Caleb Willow
Science
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Biography

About Caleb Willow

Education

Experience

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

Jerry Borunda
Language Arts
P: (623) 707.1072
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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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Mark Cable
Social Studies
P: (623) 707.1065
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Biography

About Mark Cable

Education

MEd Education Administration, BS Business Administration

Experience

13 years in middle school

Why I Teach

I am passionate about my subject. I believe that the purpose of education is to create an informed and engaged citizen. I want to help students become people who are assets to their community, who understand their role in a republic, and who work to make the world a little bit better place.
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Clay Dawson
Science
P: (623) 707.1092
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Biography

About Clay Dawson

Education

BS

Experience

Currently, this is my fifth year of teaching.

Why I Teach

The reason I teach is simple! I want kids to understand that there are so many opportunities out there, and all it takes is taking that first step. I want to help spread and encourage positivity when our students are on and off the campus. I love being able to help be a positive impact for our amazing students.
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Justin Evans
Language Arts
P: (623) 707.1071
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Biography

About Justin Evans

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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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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Don McClintock
Science
P: (623) 707.1063
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Biography

About Don McClintock

Education

HS Diploma - West Frankfort High School, AA - John A. Logan College, BS - Southern Illinois University, MA Administration - Northern Arizona University

Experience

In education for 20+ years; at SMMS for 18 years

Why I Teach

Why I teach? That is a really good question. As I child, I came from a small town that was looked down upon as far as the quality of people. In school, I felt that many of my teachers didn't care about me because of where I was growing up. I can even remember my high school history teacher telling me to just go to sleep in his class. I always thought that getting an education and going to college was for "rich" kids. However; when I finally made my career choice of education, I knew that I wanted to make a positive difference in students lives.
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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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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

Helen Nance
Reading Interventionist
P: (623) 707.1093
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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 did substitute teaching in every grade and every subject (except automotive and welding). 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 18 years.

Why I Teach

The frenetic pace of my life as a classroom teacher takes precedence over everything, and I need to find the passion and grounding to bring me back to the why. Why do 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. At the core of who I am as a teacher is love and creating a safe space where the affirmation of self and others can flourish and grow.
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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

Daisy Amaro
Media Center
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Biography

About Daisy Amaro

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Rene Contreras
PE
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Biography

About Rene Contreras

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Jay Harrison
PE / Athletics Director
P: (623) 707.1099
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Biography

About Jay Harrison

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Natalie LeVan
Chorus / Music
P: (623) 707.1087
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Biography

About Natalie LeVan

Education

BA Music Education - Augustana University

Experience

One semester of student teaching, one semester of long-term subbing, one and a half years at SMMS

Why I Teach

This is an always-evolving answer for me. I first became a teacher because I loved music. Then I became a teacher because I loved making music with children who also loved music. Now I teach because I watch my students become better people, and I am honored to be an influence in their lives.
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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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Christopher Patterson
Technology & Vocational Education
P: (623) 707.1088
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Biography

About Christopher Patterson

Education

MA Education

Experience

15 years

Why I Teach

Technology is a fundamental aspect of everyday life, whether in a professional or an educational context. Teaching technology allows students to be aware of what is new and innovative and how it may influence their lives. The future will always be technology, and its impacts have and will change the world.
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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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Lauren Lemanski
Resource
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Biography

About Lauren Lemanski

Education

Experience

Why I Teach

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Lindsay Sattler
Self-Contained Cross Category
P: (623) 707.1127
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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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Gary Willow
Resource
P: (623) 707.1073
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Biography

About Gary Willow

Education

MA Special Education - National University-Riverside, BS Agri-Business- Arizona State University, AA - Scottsdale Community College

Experience

Special education teacher since 1994

Why I Teach

When I started working with special needs students, I quickly realized I did not just want to be a good teacher, I had to be a GREAT Teacher—I had to become a master teacher—a Legend. I could not hold back. I can think of teaching none other than the student who needs a different approach to learning. My goal is that every student will gain a passion for school and a passion to continue learning.
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