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Innovation Academy teachers take a selfie with principal Michael McConnell on the first day of classes in 2017.

Despite the stay-home order and the closure of schools across the state, educators in Arizona are still hard at work making sure their students stay informed and up-to-date on their classwork.

More than a simple series of emails, teachers have been asked to quickly become masters of video chats and deploy distance learning strategies while working from empty classrooms or their own homes.

To recognize the hard work of Tucson’s educators, Tucson Values Teachers is seeking the public’s help for a special edition of its monthly award program by soliciting video nominations from students and their parents.

The Teacher Excellence Awards are delivered each month after colleagues, students and parents nominate an outstanding educator. Winners receive a plaque, bouquet of roses, $250 in cash and a $100 gift card to Office Depot/Office Max.

“We would have a real nice celebration in front of their kids,” said Tucson Values Teachers CEO Andy Heinemann. “But now, we’re not able to go to the schools. So, what we’re saying is, ‘Kids, parents, teachers are being very, very creative right now in delivering instruction in a virtual way. So, share with us how teachers are motivating you, how teachers are engaging you in instruction, because teachers are continuing to work.”

All kindergarten through high school teachers in Southern Arizona are eligible for the award. Five teachers will be selected.

To submit a nomination, students (and their parents) need to create a video highlighting how the teacher is going “above and beyond” to provide virtual instruction and why they should win a Teacher Excellence Award. Videos must be no longer than one minute and available in .mp4 or .mov formats.

Nominators must also fill out a form at this link. Nominations are open through April 24.

“Deep down in every teacher’s heart, they really care about their kids, and teachers have accepted this challenge to teach in the best way they can in a totally different way—virtually—so that their kids can continue to grow,” Heinemann said. “What amazes me is that in this time of crisis and change, they’ve embraced this new way of teaching so that their kids don’t get behind.”

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