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Help us congratulate the newest Teacher of the Year and Ambassadors for Excellence. We’re sure the honoree’s acceptance speech will help you re-energize and refuel as the year comes to a close.

Today, in front of colleagues and friends, Josh Meibos was named the 2018 Arizona Teacher of the Year. Honored alongside the Arizona Educational Foundation’s Ambassadors for Excellence, we felt inspired by the Balsz School District physical education teacher.  We’re confident educators all around the state, if not the nation, will be encouraged by his words. Thank you for allowing us to share your words as hope for our profession.

 

First, I’d like to thank the Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF), Bobbie O’Boyle, the AEF board, our sponsors, and the local officials who support public schools, for this humbling recognition for teachers in Arizona. It’s an honor to have my name included on a list of incredible educators in our state and to be an ambassador of excellence with Amy, Allison, Erica, and Justean. It’s also an honor to stand up here to represent and advocate for my content area of physical education.

I’d like to thank the Balsz School District Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Smith, along with Alexis Wilson, Daniela Robles, and our district board members and the rest of the small, yet powerfully influential crew in the Balsz [School] District, including a shout out to my Balsz District physical education team, who is here with me today. Thank you for patience and your dedication to sharing your passion with me and our students. We are in an exciting time for our content area in Arizona — and a quick, shameless plug for our state’s Arizona Health and Physical Education Convention next week at the downtown Phoenix conference center.

To my dedicated and tireless team at Crockett Elementary and our principal, Sean Hannafin, thank you for seeing complimentary visions of our wickedly talented and incredibly smart students. They are why I teach and why am standing here today.

Thank you to Dr. [Kathy] Wiebke and the directors at the Arizona K12 Center. One director whom I thank for this nomination. This Center which has had a lasting impression and hand in changing my career whether through the National Board Certification process or at the annual Teacher Leadership [Institute] in Tucson every summer, Dr. Wiebke’s leadership and vision for public schools in Arizona is changing the rhetoric for education and I am proud to be included in her mission to make public education teachers in Arizona, valued, fairly compensated, better equipped, and sustainably powerful, in and out of the classroom.

Thank you to my family and friends, especially Eric, whose simple four points of advice [have] stuck with from my first day teaching seven years ago:

  1. Calm down
  2. Figure it out
  3. Be nice to yourself
  4. Make stuff happen

I want to make stuff happen for the teaching profession in Arizona. We deserve better than last place in this country. Teaching is a second career for me, but it is my first passion. When I was 30, I remember thinking something in my career needed to change and I switched course, applied for a master’s program at Arizona State University, and set off toward my teaching certification. It wasn’t easy to start over, but it was easy to focus on my passion. It surprised me how enjoyable it was to go back to school. I was surrounded by like-minded humans, I got to geek out with physical education curriculum, and I was challenged by like-minded professors and mentors, and I had great support from family and friends… I had no idea then that I would be sitting where I am today.

You see, when I entered grad school, my hope was to teach a few years, gain some experience, and set off to teach abroad. I wanted to see the world and teach kids from across the globe. Little did I know, my first teaching job in Phoenix at Crockett Elementary, would be at a school where the world came to me, and I would be given the unique opportunity to teach students from a wide spectrum of rich and diverse cultures who deserve a quality education with a certified teacher. I wasn’t prepared for the challenge that laid before me, but I knew I wanted that opportunity and realized my situation was what the American public-school system was all about: a cornerstone of the American democratic project that provides students with crucial exposure to people of different backgrounds and perspectives.

We, as Americans, have a closer relationship with the public-school system than with any other shared institution. Me, I’m teaching in an urban, Title I elementary school with students coming from families with refugee status including countries like Kenya, Congo, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, and Tanzania to name a few, along with roughly 20 different home languages, many Hispanic, first-generation citizens, and homelessness, and I realize public education is a powerful tool and instrument to effectively help students and families, of all backgrounds and socioeconomic status, integrate into the powerful American democracy.

Paulo Freire once said, “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity. Or, it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal creatively and critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

Thank you so much.

 

On behalf of the Arizona K12 Center, we applaud all those involved in the Arizona Teacher of the Year process. Learn more about Meibos here.

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