A Glendale teacher is one of five finalists in the running for the 2021 Arizona Teacher of the Year Award.
Special education teacher Estevan Carreon of Independence High School, 6602 N. 75th Ave., Glendale, of the Glendale Union High School District, was initially included among the 10 candidates announced, and the Arizona Educational Foundation said Aug. 27 that he now is one of the final five.
The five finalists, known as “Ambassadors for Excellence,” are under consideration for the prestigious honor, which will be presented at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23 in a ceremony streamed online at azedfoundation.org.
“To be asked to be a spokesperson for teaching is an honor,” Mr. Carreon said. “It is a duty that I do not take lightly. Outside of being a parent, being a teacher is the most important and meaningful undertaking I have done. As a parent, I’ve observed each teacher who has inspired my daughter to enter the profession. These are wonderful individuals who tirelessly bring their best efforts in the classroom for their students. They have inspired me to continue to grow as an educator.”
Mr. Carreon began his career in education as an instructional assistant before teaching at Cortez High School in Phoenix. He currently teaches students who have emotional disabilities and behavioral issues at Independence High.
“Estevan builds relationships with his students and their families so that they can work together to find success either online or in person,” Independence High principal Rob Ambrose said. “He holds class every day through a variety of both interactive and independent activities online so that his students are eager and more likely to stay engaged.”
He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Special Education with an emphasis on emotional disabilities, and two Master of Arts degrees in Secondary Education and Educational Leadership. He has served three terms as president of the Glendale Union Education Association, and served on the board of directors for both the Arizona Education Association and the National Education Association.
Mr. Carreon has been on the faculty at Independence High School for 20 years.
“His strongest attributes as an educator: patience, persistence, compassion, genuine concern for the well-being of students, leadership, collaboration, approachability, humility, humorous when appropriate, thoughtful, dedicated, advocates for students and teachers, and he shares his passion for the profession in every aspect of his life,” Mr. Ambrose said. “ It is just who he is.”
Special education is more critical than ever during this period of online distance learning caused by coronavirus.
“This profession is not so much about delivering content as it is about building relationships. In special education, this is even more important because many individuals with special needs depend on our guidance and support to develop those personal skills,” Mr. Carreon said. “This is a very difficult time and our biggest challenge is developing these relationships and community with students, while lacking many of the traditional tools we are accustomed with using. One of the best moments I’ve had this year was when my students asked if I could leave my virtual classroom open after class. They said they just wanted to talk and catch up with each other. I told them that while I couldn’t do that, I would allow for all of us to do so at the end of the week once all of them had completed their assignments. They were so motivated to just interact with each other.”
He recalled how he was first drawn to the special education campus community.
“Before my first teaching position, I was hired as a substitute,” he said. “As a sub I was able to work in almost every type of classroom environment. I loved it! I really enjoyed the chance to face a different situation every day. As a special education teacher, I continue to love working with students who bring so much diversity to the classroom. I’ve been able to work with students who have significant cognitive disabilities, students with learning disabilities, student with hearing impairments and physical disabilities. I’ve also worked with honors students who had emotional disabilities. All of them presented unique circumstance. As a high school teacher, I then get to see them walk across the stage at their graduation. Knowing what they’ve faced, knowing what they have struggled with and what they’ve overcome to get to that point of receiving their diploma is truly an inspiring moment.”