ALA’s Black honored with national teaching award

Bethany Black, left, a teacher at American Leadership Academy K-6 in Queen Creek, received the Teacher of the Year grand prize award from Inter-State Studios after being nominated by ALA parent Heidi Harlow, right. Mrs. Harlow’s son, Justin, center, was a student in Ms. Black’s kindergarten class during the 2015-16 school year. (Courtesy of American Leadership Academy)

Bethany Black, left, a teacher at American Leadership Academy K-6 in Queen Creek, received the Teacher of the Year grand prize award from Inter-State Studios after being nominated by ALA parent Heidi Harlow, right. Mrs. Harlow’s son, Justin, center, was a student in Ms. Black’s kindergarten class during the 2015-16 school year. (Courtesy of American Leadership Academy)

Bethany Black was told she was going to be brought up on stage during a leadership training class Aug. 1 for teachers at American Leadership Academy’s eight campuses. She assumed she would be part of a group exercise or skit with her peers.

But when Dan Provonsha, principal of ALA K-6 in Queen Creek, where Ms. Black is a teacher, announced he wanted to honor someone, she started to make the connection, she said during a phone interview. Is that what this is all about?, she asked herself.

That’s when Ms. Black found out she had received the teacher of the year grand prize award from Inter-State Studios.

The company has provided school picture services for more than 85 years throughout the U.S. and for thousands of schools nationally, according to a press release.

Each year parents and co-workers are invited to write a letter about an exceptional teacher who has and does make a difference in the lives of his or her students, according to the release.

Of the thousands of letters received, three are chosen to receive an award for exceptional service to students, families and their school.

These awards are selected nationally and only one teacher receives the grand prize annually in the nation, Trish Cozad, operations manager of Inter-State Studio’s Phoenix office, said in the release.

Ms. Black is this year’s grand prize winner. As such, she received a plaque, a framed copy of the nomination letter and a classroom grant for $300.

The kindergarten teacher said during her interview she did not know she had been nominated.

“It was a little overwhelming,” she said about hearing she had been honored. “I was so shocked it was happening. I got a little teary-eyed and emotional.”

The kindergarten teacher was nominated by ALA parent Heidi Harlow, whose son, Justin, was a student in Ms. Black’s class during the 2015-16 school year.

In her nomination letter, Mrs. Harlow wrote: “I have a 6-year-old son who is proud to be Ms. Black’s student. She loves him, she accepts him just the way he is and he is exceling because of it. There are no limitations as to what my son can accomplish and that is because Ms. Black never placed limitations on herself. All of Ms. Black’s students believe they can learn, know they are loved and are prepared for success moving forward. As most children’s first school experience, her impact is beyond measurable and she has been the answer to my prayers.”

Ms. Black, who is in her fifth year as a kindergarten teacher with American Leadership Academy, said she was grateful someone took the time to recognize her work.

“I’m passionate about teaching. While it’s time-consuming, it’s also a blessing to see how a student can grow,” she said. “At the beginning of the school year, they’re not familiar with you and then you become a family. By the end of the year, it’s hard to let go.”

The honoree said she worked with Justin to overcome his shyness by encouraging him to participate in class activities.

“He really came out of his shell and became friends with a lot of kids. Like other kids, he just needed a little extra time to build relationships and feel successful in his learning,” Ms. Black said.

She said she doesn’t teach in an effort to be recognized but admitted the honor made her feel amazing.

“I treat my students with respect and share things I have learned from others,” Ms. Black said. “I think the biggest thing is to treat everybody the way you want to be treated.”

This is the first national award the school’s teachers have received during its five-year history, Mr. Provonsha said during an interview.

“Ms. Black does an amazing job,” he said.

American Leadership Academy K-6 is at 19843 E. Chandler Heights Road in Queen Creek. Its phone number is 480-420-2150.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799 and via e-mail at qcnews@newszap.com, or follow her on Twitter @WendyNewszap123.

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