Yuma native receives teaching honor

A Yuma-native teaching in Tucson was recently named one of 12 Rodel Exemplary Teachers in Arizona for 2015.

A second grade-teacher at Laguna Elementary in the Flowing Wells Unified District, Brianna Maxwell was selected for the honor by the Rodel Foundation of Arizona based on student achievement, effective classroom practices, and her potential to be a mentor for future teachers.

While the Rodel Exemplary Teacher program does not currently serve the Yuma area, Rodel representatives shared that they are gearing up to get the program up and running in the local area for next year to ensure that Yuma teachers are also honored through the initiative.

“I felt very honored to receive the award,” said Maxwell.

“I’m not sure why I was selected over other finalists. They must have seen something when observing my classroom that they liked.”

Now that she has been named a Rodel Exemplary Teacher, her responsibilities include mentoring three student teachers over the next two years.

“The program’s hope is that I will equip my student teachers with the tools needed to be successful in an Arizona Title I school,” she said. “Then in turn they will accept jobs at Title I schools in Arizona and be highly effective teachers for a demographic that is often underserved.”

A fourth generation teacher on both sides of her family, Maxwell was born, raised, and educated in the Yuma area through her high school years and her mother Irasema Maxwell currently teaches kindergarten at Valle del Encanto Learning Center in Somerton.

In response to a question about what inspired her to become a teacher, she said, “I didn’t want to be a teacher at first because I knew the demands of the profession. But when I was in college I found myself uninterested in the classes I was taking and I missed interacting with children. So I changed my major and never looked back.”

After attending Rolle Elementary and Gila Vista Junior High, Maxwell went on to graduate from Kofa High School. She later received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Spanish from the University of Arizona as well as her master’s degree in Educational Leadership.

In addition to having over seven years of experience in education as a first-grade teacher, third-grade teacher, and as a second grade teacher; she is also a member of her school’s Positive Behavior Intervention supports team, a member of the behavioral assistance team, a grade level chair, an instructional coach, a head teacher and the Prop 301 representative to the district.

Howard Paley, Rodel Foundation of Arizona chief operating officer, shared that they have been working with Yuma County Superintendent of Schools Tom Tyree to bring the teacher recognition program to Yuma as well. Paley noted that they are in preliminary discussions with organizations in the area to garner supporters to invest in the program.

“Tom Tyree is working with us to bring about the community support we need for the teacher initiative and to recognize teachers like Brianna and more importantly take advantage of the programs that are at NAU-Yuma to help create more effective teachers who are committed to the Yuma community,” he said.

Since 2004, 156 Rodel Exemplary Teachers have been named and more than 600 Rodel Promising Student Teachers have been mentored.