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The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column.


Everyone is talking about Marie Kondo and those things that “spark joy.” I am not sure which objects in my home spark joy, but I have many memories that do.

In 1997, I was selected as one of Disney’s American Teacher honorees. It was an incredible week of fun and recognition. Disney invited our group of honorees to spend a week at Pasadena’s Huntington Hotel, which to this day remains one of the most elegant hotels I have ever stayed in. Every night, I would return to my room and there would be a gift waiting for me on my bed.

The final night was the awards ceremony and reception. Every teacher was given a gown and jewelry to wear. I vividly remember the reception – there were mountains of shrimp, beautifully displayed vegetables, carving stations with all sorts of meats, and endless cocktails. The actress Jenna Elfman presented me with my award, and the well-known saxophonist Dave Koz tackled a mountain of shrimp alongside me. It was clear to me that everyone in attendance genuinely cared about my work as an educator. I remember wishing that every teacher could have an experience like this one.

The memory of that night still sparks joy in my life. For years, I carried it with me while wondering how we could recreate that experience for so many of Arizona’s outstanding educators.

As Arizona’s first National Board Certified Teacher, I kept waiting for someone to find a way to recognize all the Arizona teachers who have achieved this rigorous certification. It is often referred to as the gold-standard of teaching, and the efforts that teachers pour into the process make it wholly worthy of that distinction. Yet all too often, when teachers learn that they have achieved board certification, there is no one there to recognize this incredible accomplishment or simply shake that teacher’s hand.

I am not sure why I sat around waiting for someone else for so long. But one afternoon in 2009, I realized that the people I was looking for were already around me. So, with some help from our friends at Arizona Public Service and the Arizona Education Association, the Arizona K12 Center launched the First Annual Celebration of Accomplished Teaching.

In the instant that we realized that we were the ones who could make our vision a reality, the Celebration of Accomplished Teaching came to life. To me, that realization is leadership. And that is what the teachers in this state do for Arizona children every single day. They stay at the top of their game by engaging in ongoing professional learning and using their voices to advance the teaching profession.

While our event does not have a mountain of shrimp or unlimited cocktails, it does offer an elegant evening of conversation, food, and drink. It is an evening worthy of the achievement we recognize. Whether they are Arizona’s newest Master Teachers or have achieved National Board Certification for the first time, our goal is to honor the service of these incredible educators, who dedicate so much of their lives to cultivating and protecting Arizona’s most precious resource — our children.

This year’s Tenth Annual Celebration of Accomplished Teaching will be held on Feb. 9 at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass. If you have not registered yet, please do so as soon as possible–the last day to do so is Thursday, January 31! We invite you to join our celebration as we honor some of Arizona’s finest educators while creating memories that will spark joy in the lives of many.


  • Erica Davis says:

    How lucky we are that we are now able to celebrate thanks to your vision and leadership!

  • Susan Collins says:

    The CoAT will always be one of my best memories of moving to AZ. On that night I knew I was the luckiest person on the planet to get to be a teacher in Arizona. I still feel that way two years later.

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