The Arizona Charter Schools Association has honored exemplary educators with its 2016 Charter Awards, which annually recognizes the top charter teacher, leader, business manager and school in Arizona.

“I’m pleased to recognize these outstanding recipients of the 2016 Charter Awards, which honor the very best of Arizona’s public charter schools,” said Eileen B. Sigmund, President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association. “What these winners have in common is their innovative approach to education and committed focus to the success of their students.”

Award: 2016 Charter Transformational Leader of the Year

Recipient: Valerie Merrill, principal at Legacy Traditional School – Gilbert, a K-8 charter school serving 1,200 students in Gilbert.

According to the association, Merril is an inspirational leader and a quintessential role model for everyone involved with the school.

“Two years ago, she took over the Legacy Gilbert during a period when the school’s growth needed strong direction and attention. Once at the reins, she turned around teacher and parent satisfaction almost immediately, helping the school grow an additional 300 students in just two years.

As a former classroom teacher who was named Higley Unified School District Teacher of the Year, Merrill is not one to seek the spotlight herself. She understands that her strength as a coach always is reflected in the performance and happiness of her team.”

Finalists: Christi Reay, assistant director of American Leadership Academy – San Tan, a K-6 charter school in San Tan Valley, and Susan Douglas, administrator of Mesa Arts Academy, a K-8 charter school in Mesa.

Award: 2016 Charter Teacher Leader of the Year 

Recipient: Richelle Lewis, a third-grade teacher at American Leadership Academy – Queen Creek Elementary, a K-6 charter school serving 760 students in Queen Creek.

According to the association, Lewis understands and embraces that all students learn differently, and tailors her lessons to each child to ensure all students make growth in her classroom.

“But Lewis says student success can’t be contributed only to her teaching. She has a team of 27 leaders helping: the students themselves. In addition to outstanding academic results, Lewis’s support of students goes beyond the classroom. Even though she is a busy mom, Lewis takes the time to attend important life events, sports games or recitals of her students outside of the school day. She is truly invested in the whole child, and works daily to ensure her students feel loved, supported and motivated to achieve in school and in life.”

Finalists: Forrest Radarian, a science teacher at Phoenix Collegiate Academy High School, a 9-12 charter in South Phoenix and Carl Vasil, a middle school math and science teacher at BASIS Goodyear, a K-8 charter in Goodyear.

Award: 2016 Charter School of the Year

Recipient: Academy of Math and Science – Prince, a K-8 Blue Ribbon charter school serving 420 students in Tucson.

Finalists: Havasu Preparatory Academy, a K-8 charter school in Lake Havasu City, and ASU Preparatory Academy Polytechnic, a K-12 charter school in Mesa.

Award: 2016 Charter Business Leader of the Year

Recipient: Betsy Rosenmiller, finance director at Metropolitan Arts Institute, a charter high school serving 250 students in Phoenix.

Finalists: Jennifer O’Connell, Director of Business Operations at Desert Marigold School, a K-12 charter in Phoenix and Suzanne Drakes, Chief Financial Officer at AAEC Early College High Schools, a network of five charter high schools serving 1,500 students throughout Arizona.


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