Crane teacher named Rodel finalist

A teacher at Crane Middle School was recently named a Rodel Exemplary Teacher finalist.

Middle school math teacher Josh Topp was one of three Yuma instructors to make it to the finalist round of Rodel Foundation of Arizona’s teacher recognition program. Twenty-four finalists were selected from a group of 42 semifinalists from across the state. On Nov. 29, a total of 15 instructors will receive the title of 2016 Rodel Exemplary Teacher, including one teacher from Yuma County.

Topp was nominated for the honor by his principal Kari Neumann. Rodel Foundation of Arizona considers nominations for the initiative based upon an instructor’s student achievement data, effective classroom practices, and potential to be a mentor to future teachers. The program also focuses on recognizing teachers from high-needs schools with a free and reduced meal rate of 70 percent or higher.

“It was definitely an honor,” he said about being selected. “I work with a very solid staff that I learn from every day. I feel like every single staff member at this school also deserves to be recognized, too, but I’m just happy to represent our school in such a way that kind of puts the school in the limelight a little bit.”

If Topp is named a Rodel Exemplary Teacher, his responsibilities would include mentoring three student teachers over the next two years. Currently in his fifth year as an educator, Topp said that he’s looking forward to the chance to build up new math teachers.

“It would definitely be an incredible opportunity,” he said. “Coming from a background where I had some not-so-great math teachers, I understand where my students are coming from. I understand the challenge and the struggle to understand, and I feel like I’m able to explain math in a way that helps students. I would love to help push that on others that would have that same drive and passion I do to work with kids and be able to teach math in a way that helps struggling students understand it better and helps them feel successful.”

After initially starting out in marketing, Topp said that he made a career change to a field he’s always felt called to.

“Marketing had its challenges, but it wasn’t fulfilling,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was making a lasting impression. I knew that in education I’d be able to build relationships and that I’d be able to invest in the future of young people.”

Topp serves as an Advancement Via Individual Determination teacher, the co-chair for the math department on his campus, a team lead, student council advisor, and eighth-grade soccer coach. He’s also a member of Crane Elementary School District’s math leadership team.

At the local level, the Rodel Exemplary Teacher program is part of a new partnership formed between the Yuma County School Superintendent’s Office and the Arizona Community Foundation of Yuma.

Since 2004, 167 Rodel Exemplary Teachers have been named from around Arizona and more than 700 Rodel Promising Student Teachers have been mentored.