Sharon Yurtinus accepts Tucson Values Teachers’ March Teacher Excellence award on March 26, 2019.

La Paloma’s Yurtinus gets excellence award

Sharon Yurtinus, a second-grade teacher at La Paloma Academy Lakeside, has earned Tucson Values Teachers’ March Teacher Excellence award.

“Ms. Yurtinus goes above and beyond the call of duty,” said La Paloma Principal Megan Rodgers. “She puts in many extra hours to ensure her students have what they need.”

Yurtinus has taught second grade at La Paloma for three years. She started her teaching career in Gardnerville, Nevada, 13 years ago. As part of the Tucson Values Teachers’ award, she received a $100 Office Max/Office Depot gift card, $250 in cash from the Helios Education Foundation and school supplies.

If you want to nominate a teacher for the honor, visit

Desert View senior is state poetry winner

Edgardo Aguilar, a senior at Desert View High School, will represent Arizona at the 14th annual Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C., next month.

Aguilar competed against 10 students from across Arizona to qualify for the national finals in Washington, which run April 30 to May 1. He recited poems from Jimmy Santiago Baca, Maya Angelou, Natalie Diaz and others in the Arizona finals.

Aguilar was awarded $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington for his state win. Desert View will also receive a $500 stipend for purchasing books because of the win. Aguilar could additionally win a $20,000 college scholarship, should he wins the national competition.

“Beginner’s luck or perhaps I have found something that calls to me, either way, my first year of Poetry Out Loud has been quite a trip,” Aguilar said in a press release. “I am just grateful to have made it this far.”

Poetry Out Loud is a program from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation offered in all 50 states. The University of Arizona Poetry Center is a sponsor of Arizona’s program.

TUSD administrator earns STEM honor

Margaret Gebert, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers coordinator at Tucson Unified School District, has been awarded the 2019 Excellence in K-12 STEM Education and Diversity award from the University of Arizona’s Women in Science and Engineering program.

The UA honored Gebert with the award because of her work in actively increasing student interest and diversity in STEM fields, both inside and outside the classroom.

“Through Margaret’s work training teachers to effectively engage students in STEM disciplines, she has touched the lives of hundreds of children each year,” said Jill M. Williams, the director of the Women in Science and Engineering program.

School for at-risk students honored

The Junior League of Tucson has honored Pima Vocational High School, an alternative school serving young people who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of traditional high schools, with its JL Legacy Community Partnership award.

Pima Vocational was recognized for its “exceptional dedication” to at-risk youth and its contributions to preparing them academically and socially for success in school and the real world.

While attending the school, students take courses about résumé writing and career skills, and can earn paid internships and land jobs. Every class has 15 students or less.

“We’re extremely honored that the Junior League has selected us for this award,” said PVHS Director Michelle Ray. “This organization has such a strong history of community-building. We’re thrilled to be able to play even a small role in educating this community’s future leaders.”

PVHS is a public charter school operating under the Pima County Community Services, Employment and Training Department. Most Pima Vocational students are experiencing homelessness, addiction or teen parenting.

Contact reporter Brenna Bailey at or 520-573-4279. On Twitter: @brennanonymous