Hey and Ruiz named 2016 Rodel Exemplary Teachers

Irving Elementary teacher Meredith Hey and Hawthorne Elementary teacher Jennifer Ruiz join an exclusive club of Arizona educators named Exemplary Teachers.

Hey and Ruiz Rodel 2016

Meredith Hey and Jennifer Ruiz have been named 2016 Rodel Exemplary Teachers. Hey is a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Irving Elementary. Ruiz teaches sixth grade at Hawthorne Elementary. The educators have a combined 24 years experience as teachers.

Exemplary Teachers are selected based on outstanding student achievement in high-need schools, their mentoring ability, and recommendation of their principals and Rodel’s observation team.

“Meredith's ability to reach the needs of each of her students makes her a truly exceptional teacher," says Penny Briney, Irving Elementary principal. "Her classroom is a community where students work together to discover learning and create a sense of independence. The ability to use critical thinking skills that she instills in them helps each of her students to reach their full potential and achieve at higher levels."

Stephanie Montez, Hawthorne Elementary principal, raves about Ruiz's passion for education. "Ms. Ruiz is passionate about ensuring our students achieve at the highest levels possible and works tirelessly to make it happen," Montez says. "Her knowledge base is incredible and ever-expanding. She continually thirsts to learn more about teaching and learning, and she is always willing to turn around and implement what she's learned to benefit our students. I know when I enter her room, I will see students engaged, asking questions, explaining to each other, discussing concepts, and challenging their peers and themselves. We are also excited that as part of the Rodel honor, she will help new teachers learn from her daily work with kids."

Hey has taught for 13 years. She's currently co-chair of Irving's Child Academic Success Team committee, co-trainer for the district math curriculum and co-adviser of student council. She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education and master's in curriculum and instruction from Northern Arizona University.

“My greatest source of pride comes from the students in my classroom each day," Hey says. "They come to school with a desire to learn and a willingness to work together with each other and with me to reach their learning goals."

Ruiz has taught for 11 years. She's a member of Hawthorne's school leadership team and the district leadership development program, and student council adviser. She is also a district summer school project designer and manager. She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education from University of Arizona and a master's in educational leadership/administration from Grand Canyon University. 

"What I love most about teaching is that every day is a new opportunity to inspire my students," Ruiz says. "Though every day is different, and we are constantly exploring new concepts, the learning is cumulative. I can look back and see how all of the experiences from the year add up to tremendous growth. It gives me a great sense of pride seeing my students accomplish things they once believed to be beyond their abilities."

The Rodel Exemplary Teacher Initiative asks awardees to mentor student teachers with high potential. Student teachers will be in Hey's and Ruiz's classrooms for the next two years.

Both teachers are thrilled at the aspect of helping student teachers develop the passion they have for education. For new educators, Ruiz advises, "Teaching is an art, and it is not easy. Being prepared is crucial to success, but things are not always going to go as planned, and that is OK. In Mesa, we are fortunate that there are so many resources for teachers, including professional development opportunities, and curriculum specialists and academic coaches who are there to provide support. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help! These resources will help you keep the passion for what you're doing and not get too overwhelmed."

(Pictured from left to right: Hey, Ruiz. Photos courtesy of The Rodel Foundation)


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