Harelson's Keene receives honor - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

Harelson's Keene receives honor

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Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 11:00 pm

It reduced her to tears.

Harelson Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Bonnie Keene last Friday morning learned that her students had voted her a Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year during their trips to the La Cholla Boulevard store.

In fact, though she didn’t yet know it, the teacher had foreshadowed the honor that week when she taught her students the meaning of the word “elated.”

The fourth-year teacher came to the profession after spending a few years as a television traffic reporter.

“I always wanted to be an actress growing up,” Keene said last Friday afternoon. “Now I get to be on stage every day.”

And, it’s that thespian mindset Keene brings to her classroom, Harelson Principal Andy Heinemann said, that played a big role in her winning the Wal-Mart award, which gives the school $1,000 and the teacher $100.

“Mrs. Keene makes her classroom come alive with learning,” Heinemann said. “She balances challenging her students with making them comfortable. She’s a master at that.”

It’s nothing for Keene to break into an impromptu character or have her students act out a concept they’re learning.

And last Friday, proved no different. She had her students play droplets of water as they acted out the steps in the water cycle, from falling rainwater to percolating groundwater. She also affected a Jamaican accent during a brief lesson on rounding.

“We have a math problem on the board, but it’s no problem mon,” she said playing up the role of an islander.

As she and the students worked through the exercise, Keene frequently affirmed their answers with a resounding, “Ya mon!”

“If it’s not relevant,” the teacher said explaining her approach to new material, “then they’re not going to get engaged.”

And, the students seemed more than engaged in Keene’s class last week, volunteering to answer questions or otherwise participate in activities.

Also, another Northwest-area educator, Marana High School’s Kevin Korte, received Teacher of the Year honors from the Wal-Mart store off Cortaro Road. Korte, who teaches television production classes, has taught at Marana High since 1979. He was surprised with the award during a Tuesday morning presentation in his classroom.

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