Mountain View High School’s Charles Kamb was caught a little off guard on Jan. 29, as about a dozen people with balloons and gifts entered his classroom to inform him he was being recognized for going above and beyond in his classroom.

Lorell O’Dell nominated Kamb, who is a special education and math teacher, as he was her son’s case manager and teacher. Over the past four years, Kamb has worked with her son Thomas. She felt his teaching surpassed all of her expectations and nominated him for the Teacher Excellence Award, which is given by Tucson Values Teachers and OfficeMax.

Kamb stood out to Lorell because he never seemed to let Thomas give up on himself as he played an integral part in getting him to a point where he could graduate from high school later this year.

“He always has been genuinely concerned with Thomas,” O’Dell said. “He has always been supportive – not in a ‘shame on you Thomas,’ way, but ‘this doesn’t sound like you, how can I help you.’

“He has been instrumental in helping Thomas get to graduation.”

Kamb, who held back tears and was speechless while being honored, considers himself a fairly average teacher and didn’t feel what he has done in his teaching career at the school to be that different from any of the other teachers he works with.

“I love working with kids,” he said after receiving the award.

He told the story about a person walking along the beach that has a bunch of starfish that are washed up on the shore. Though he can’t throw all of them back into the ocean, he picks up one and throws it back into the ocean. He picks up another one and throws it back into the ocean. At that point a man comes up and says, “Why are you doing this? It doesn’t matter.” To which point the man picked up another starfish, threw it into the ocean and said, “But it does to that one.”

“That is the way I look at [my job] sometimes,” Kamb said. “If you can just effect one person in one way through a school year, then you have done a good job.”

When asked how he felt about getting to a point where he is getting to see Thomas graduate, Kamb was blunt and to the point.

“Wasn’t that great? Isn’t that what it is all about?”

Kamb said he wished he could have an affect on more students but knows that isn’t always possible. Though that saddens him, he tries to focus on the good, which is when a kid makes a change for the better. Kamb is quick to give the student all the credit.

“When a kid makes those changes, it’s not really you. It’s them,” Kamb said. “They made up their minds to do it. You did something that helped them feel successful on their own. Because if they don’t feel successful on their own and they feel like you give them everything, it doesn’t really count, it is just given. But if you can inspire someone to do something and be successful on their own, then they can grow from that.”

Mountain View Principal Patricia Cadigan was happy to hear that Kamb was recognized. To her, Kamb has stood out as one of the best teachers she has worked with during her career.

“He is one of those teachers that, from his soul, he has the ability to touch kids in a way that other people can’t,” Cadigan said.

Tucson Values Teachers and OfficeMax accept online nominations for K-12 teachers, who work in Southern Arizona, who go above and beyond in the classroom each day. 

Each month, one teacher is selected to receive the award. To make a nomination, go to  Winners receive $100 gift card and a bag of school supplies.

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