Erickson Elementary School kindergarten teacher Nora Jaramillo lets her students smell the flowers she received along with the Educational Enrichment Foundation's Evelyn Jay Excellence in Education Award during a surprise morning assembly.


Erickson Elementary School teacher Nora Jara-millo wears many hats.

One day she might be holding a cakewalk, the next making arrangements for a Black Hawk helicopter to land on campus.

So it was no surprise Friday that without being asked, the kindergarten teacher jumped up to address an audio problem during a school assembly.

Little did Jaramillo know that the assembly was to celebrate her, and fortunately she returned to the crowd just in time to receive the 2013 Evelyn Jay Excellence in Education Award from the Educational Enrichment Foundation.

The award recognizes outstanding Tucson Unfied School District pre-K through third-grade educators who inspire a lifelong love of reading and books.

Jaramillo was nominated by two of her fellow educators - Diane Palmer and Meg Gebert - who hailed the kindergarten teacher as "head and shoulders above the rest."

"Nora radiates positivity, energy and excitement," her colleagues wrote in a nomination letter. "Her passion for teaching and her love for her students shine through everyday in her classroom work."

Jaramillo's work starts before the school year even begins, looking at data to track what her incoming students have mastered and figuring out what the next steps will be.

Her techniques seem to be working, with almost all of her students performing where they are supposed to by mid-school year, said Erickson Principal Leah Dardis.

"She is the epitome of what a great teacher is," Dardis said. "She always has her focus on making sure the kids learn. She's someone who really cares about our community and does whatever she can to support it."

The award comes with a check for $1,000. Jaramillo - who has been an educator for nearly two decades - didn't have any immediate plans for the cash, but a student, Alec Holmes, did.

"She works very hard," the 6-year-old said. "She should go to Legoland."

The Educational Enrichment Foundation also recognized Jennifer Silberschlag of Blenman Elementary and Cassandra Konrath of Fruchthendler Elementary as second-place winners. They will each receive $500.

Denise Ceron from Holladay Magnet and Kristi Allen from Borman Elementary were named runners-up, receiving $250 each.

The mission of the Educational Enrichment Foundation is to provide resources to expand and enrich learning in the Tucson Unified School District.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea