THis month’s winner:Laura Yarkosky, fourth-grade teacher at Hopi Elementary
Nominated by Megan Pearson
I have first-hand professional experience with Mrs. Y and have gathered testimonials from those I would bump into in the community telling me how she was a mentor to them and greatly impacted their lives. The view from the other lens is the more personal side of things, where I have witnessed the unwavering commitment to her profession and devotion to children. From staying positive during the uncharted waters of online learning to rarely taking a day off, she is truly the definition of a selfless woman, tirelessly devoting her life to the service of others.
How does it feel to be a Teacher We Love?
The best part was the letter that my daughter – who nominated me – had written on my behalf. I feel very privileged to be in the company of such extraordinary educators who help me learn from them and make me want to do a better job. I am honored to be one of the Teachers We Love recipients. Thank you for allowing me to think about excellence in education.
What did you feel when you first saw your husband and former students?
I saw my husband first, and I was thinking, ‘did I forget my phone at home again?’ And then I saw the Marinick family. They have always been very fun and supportive throughout the years, and I truly appreciated that they took the time out of their day to make it even more special. I was shocked, nervous and emotional.
How long have you been teaching at Hopi Elementary?
I have been teaching here for nine years. I started at Val Vista Lakes Elementary School in Gilbert and was there for 14 years. I have had a plethora of different teaching positions: second, third and sixth, and now fourth grade.
What is your favorite part about being a teacher?
The satisfaction I get from being able to educate my students and see them make something of themselves. That, and the fond memories I build alongside my colleagues.
How do you connect your lessons to the real world?
Encouraging my students to be mentally and physically active. I like to use current events to help students become aware of global issues and make connections between what is being taught in our classroom and what is happening in the real world. Just recently, my class was buzzing with excitement during the Winter Olympic Games. We used math concepts to total and graph the medals won in ten different countries. I also shared my favorite sport and had them discuss their favorites with me, and we also watched events and learned about Beijing and the history behind the mascot.
What are some unique techniques you use for teaching?
One technique is an Objective/Reflection sheet for lessons. The students write down the topic for that lesson, our objectives, and then a reflection piece at the end of the lesson for understanding. They turn this in like “a ticket out the door,” which allows me to see who might be struggling or feels great about what they have learned in that lesson. We also just finished a realistic fiction literature study called The Homework Machine. The students really love this book because they become the characters in the book. They read the chapters like a play.
How do you motivate your students?
I like to develop a meaningful and respectful relationship with my students. Knowing them on a personal level, know their interests and hobbies, who they hang out with, their family situations, and what gets them excited. I also like them to know that I am not the sole holder of knowledge, and they need to be active participants in creating their own knowledge in the classroom.
Did you grow up in Phoenix?
I’m from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I came here to attend Arizona State University (go Devils!), graduated and stayed here to pursue my career.
What is your favorite part of the Arcadia area?
Oh my gosh! I had loved this place long before I lived in this area because of all the activities my family and friends love to do here. Biking, hiking, local restaurants, shops, and “the vibe” are so fun.
Winning teachers receive an award certificate and special prizes. Thank you
to our sponsors: Postino Arcadia, The Joffe Group and The Phoenician Spa.
All winners are invited to an end-of-school year celebratory luncheon. Nominate a teacher you love at arcadianews.com.