This teacher of the year has changed countless lives. Learn how she changed her own.
“My life has completely changed,” Kristie Martorelli admitted, when asked if things are different since being named the 2012 Arizona Educational Foundation Teacher of the Year. More than ever, the Arizona native said she strives to lead by example to better the field of education.
As a product of Arizona’s public school system, Martorelli continued her education at Arizona State University. While she felt obligated to pursue a career in medicine because of her strong, valedictorian grades, she ultimately felt called to help children in ways that were near to her heart through teaching.
“I took a part-time job in autism therapy right when people were just beginning to have the conversation surrounding pre-diagnostic autistic students,” she explained. “These students were already going to doctors and getting pills, but none of it was successful. One thing I saw that was helping these children was the one-on-one instruction they were receiving from their therapists and teachers.”
The rest is history. Martorelli changed her major to education, participating in a cohort that earned dual certificates in bilingual education or English as a second language, and elementary or secondary education.
The Dysart Unified School District (DUSD) hired her right out of college as a third-grade teacher. Fifteen years later, she has held several positions within the district. Currently, Martorelli serves as the DUSD Professional Development Coordinator.
“We know that in order to advance in whatever role it may be, one needs the opportunity to identify strengths and weaknesses, and we need to know how to improve them. In Dysart, we like to treat all employees like professionals, whether they are a bus driver, classroom teacher or administrator. I have seen, first-hand, the impact of educators and support professionals on the lives of our students and their families,” she said.
Alanna Eimers is the 21st-Century Specialist for DUSD. As a peer, she sees Martorelli thriving in her newest role.
“Kristie is fiercely passionate about students, teachers and the advocacy of education. You can tell when this passion begins to heat up because she begins talking louder and faster, and her hands emphasize the power of her words,” Eimers attests. “It’s important to Kristie to not only speak her thoughts, but to enlighten people on the reality of educational issues. She understands that the truest way to positively transform the system is to inform stakeholders and eliminate misconceptions.”
Within her district-level position, Martorelli coordinates professional development for all staff, often modeling lesson plans for her peers. Although she doesn’t have a classroom full of students to call her own, she says she has the flexibility to co-teach with her colleagues on a regular basis.
“In addition to my commitment to the standards and instructional practices, I would like to impact teacher leadership capacity. I knew many of my colleagues did amazing things in their classroom and would let me try out new things with them,” Martorelli said.
It’s evident that her drive to enhance the profession is captivating. Three years after her reign as Teacher of the Year, Bobbie O’Boyle, Executive Director of the Arizona Educational Foundation, boasts her excellence.
“During her tenure as Arizona Teacher of the Year, Kristie served as an outstanding advocate for her fellow professionals, and she continues to do so to this day. She interacts with state leaders and policymakers in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, always mindful of what is best for all teachers and all students across Arizona,” O’Boyle explained. “I wish I could bottle Kristie’s spirit and enthusiasm because it is contagious!”
Currently, Martorelli works alongside other district members to ensure Dysart staff can obtain individualized and personalized professional development. Through the program called Your CaLL, Community as Leaders and Learners, eligible staff members can craft and propose projects they think will enhance their personal learning and district efficacy.
“She has a talent for seeing the big picture and painting it for those around her. Her futuristic and hopeful attitude helps people to see the amazing potential and ‘could be’ of future education, “Eimers explained.
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