THis month’s winner: Alyssa Heil, fifth-grade teacher at Archway Veritas • Nominated by The Bhatnagar and Burki families
If there is a teacher who personifies the energy and jubilation of an Arcadia Teacher We Love, it is Alyssa Heil. Anyone observing Mrs. Heil’s class would be in awe of the balancing act she maintains, advancing the fifth-grade curriculum at Archway Veritas while still being able to individualize for each child. Mrs. Heil also leads a board games club at the school, is a cub scout leader, and serves as a mentor teacher for the fifth-grade teaching team while still being a very involved mother of two boys at home. She attends students’ plays, was part of drive-by birthday greetings during the pandemic, and can always be spotted cheering at Arcadia Little League games.
What did you feel when you saw our group walk into the classroom?
My administrative team had already entered the classroom for what I thought to be reviewing an idea I had shared at a faculty advisor meeting earlier in the day. Dr. Bhatnagar is a colleague at school that works with one of my students, and Mrs. Burki is one of my class’s homeroom parents, so that wasn’t quite a surprise to see them in my class. When you walked in, however, holding something looking like a certificate envelope, I finally put together what was happening and was immediately overwhelmed with emotion and rendered quite speechless.
How does it feel to be a Teacher We Love?
As I live in the area, I love getting my Arcadia News every month. Being an educator, I usually skip forward to reading first about the latest “Teacher We Love.” With each edition, I am renewed and inspired by the stories of our area teachers and how they bring their gifts to their classrooms. Being in the same company of previous teachers that I have read about is quite humbling.
How long have you been teaching at Archway Veritas?
I have been teaching at Archway Veritas for over six years. I received my teaching degree and certification over 25 years ago and began as a teacher apprentice in third grade at ACV. I then taught fourth grade for three years and moved up to fifth grade last year.
What is your favorite part about being a teacher?
The most rewarding thing is making learning a thing of joy for my students. Of course, I strive to teach them the many facets of grammar, the truth that can be found in the exploration of the natural world using the scientific method, the beauty of reaching a mathematical solution through five different methods, and the countless other subjects in our curriculum, but my favorite part is making the learning fun so that they want to learn more. Seeing smiles on their faces as we sing about photosynthesis or prepositions is almost as great as when I get emails from parents telling me how their child could not stop talking about the science experiment they did that day.
How do you connect your lessons to the real world?
In literature, our Socratic seminars allow students to take a closer look at virtuous behavior not only in the characters’ behaviors but also in reflecting upon themselves. In science, we are currently exploring the plant kingdom, where students each have a section in our outdoor planters to grow and harvest their own plants from seeds. Many have expressed interest in starting a community garden nearby, which I am exploring.
How do you juggle being a mom and a teacher?
This is a juggling act that I have not yet perfected, but I strive to better myself year after year. Having active fifth and eighth-graders can be a handful, but having them at the same campus is a huge benefit. That, along with an extremely supportive family and a community full of amazing fellow parents, makes a busy schedule possible.
How do you motivate your students?
Ideally, I want my students to understand the intrinsic value of their education and have that be the main motivation for them in the long run. Along with that, I inject as much joy and energy into each lesson as possible. Instead of motivating students daily with candy or trinkets, I incentivize using experiences. For example, after a long morning of lessons, I will take my class out to the football field where we fly kites or have a bubble machine recess.
Are you from Arizona?
I was born at John C. Lincoln Hospital and grew up in Glendale, where my parents still have their home. I graduated from Apollo High School and received my B.S. in Elementary Education from NAU in ’97.
What is your favorite part of the Arcadia area?
Immediately after reading this question, the first thing that popped into my head was Beckett’s Table. Honestly, I would have to say the local restaurants are my absolute favorite part of the Arcadia area. Growing up on the west side of the valley, the dining experience is what first brought me here. I used to plan bi-weekly dinners for a large group of friends, and local restaurants were the main focus. I think Beckett’s Table was the very first dinner I planned, and we still love it to this day.
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.