January Celebrations

Posted by SUSD Communications on 1/1/2024

2023 Best of Scottsdale Awards
SUSD is thrilled to be chosen as the Scottsdale Progress Scottsdale’s Best 2023 Public School/District and so pleased that Arcadia High School’s CMAS teacher Richard Maxwell was voted the Best High School Teacher. The two runners-up are SUSD teachers, too! 

December Governing Board Celebration
Last month, the SUSD Governing Board celebrated Desert Mountain High School senior Layla Gregory, winner of the Jerome McDonough Award at the recent Arizona Thespians’ festival.  The event brings together budding playwrights, such as Layla, actors, student directors, and behind-the-scenes theatre tech crews from high schools across the state for two days of workshops on all aspects of bringing a theatrical production to life, from lighting and sets, to costumes, choreography, improv, auditioning and … writing!

Layla’s original stage play, I’m Not the Main Character, was chosen as the festival’s top original play.  The story follows a side character in a romance novel who, despite his best efforts, is massively unsuccessful in his pursuit of the play’s main character.  

Layla is a talented performer, appearing as Alice in Desert Mountain’s recent production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She takes her considerable talents to Northern Arizona University next year to major in Theatre.

The Board also celebrated the selection of Saguaro High School senior Alex Stephenson as Scottsdale Leadership’s 2023 Bill Jenkins Youth Leadership Award. Alex is well-known at Saguaro for his enthusiasm for helping others. He has worked on the art installations for the city’s Canal Convergence event and is, pardon the pun, the “driving” force of the Go Baby Go program between Saguaro and NAU that adapts toy cars for special-needs children.

If you aren’t yet convinced that Alex is worthy of recognition, he is part of SUSD’s new CTE Work-Based Learning program and is the youngest employee at Axon where, as an engineer contractor, he advises on R & D engineering projects, creates prototypes, and works with various police and fire departments. Alex is also a candidate for recognition in May as Math and Science Academy Distinguished graduate. 

The Governing Board also celebrated the most recent achievements of several SUSD employees.

Chaparral High School Economics and AP U.S. History teacher Chris Haak is the Arizona Council on Economic Education’s 2023 High School Teacher of the Year! Mr. Haak recognized that the economics curriculum was a bit dry, so with the assistance of Chaparral Assistant Principal Megan Bird (a former winner of this same award for elementary school teachers!), he reworked its content to make it more engaging for students, and they are loving it!

Saguaro High School Honors Biotechnology/Pre-AP Biology teacher Scott Milne and SUSD Facilities Grounds Lead Joe Arteca were recognized for their work to bring a “Living Labs” project to life on the Saguaro campus. The labs are part of an extension of the school’s powerful partnership with the Scottsdale-based McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. Its mission is to preserve and advance our community’s natural, open space through science, education and stewardship, and Saguaro students are pitching in.  

Last school year, under Mr. Milne’s direction, students jumped in to create three locations on campus to further their and their fellow Sabercats’ understanding of the Sonoran Desert environment we call ‘home,’ and enable them to be able to contribute scientific data to the Conservancy’s research.

Invasive plant species were removed from a central part of the campus and replaced with native plants to create a pollinator garden. An unused planter between the Innovation Center and the cafeteria was turned into a cactus garden to study … you guessed it … Saguaro cacti! The third project was to create a learning corridor in the 300 Building, turning an empty hallway trophy case into a display about biological soil crust.

In a true collaboration of efforts, Mr. Arteca and his team of Facilities workers handled the construction sides of the project, with students pitching in, too, and Mr. Milne handled the science side. Thank you, gentlemen!

And Now You Know the Rest of the Story …
Last spring, we told you about Tonalea 8th grade student Roselyn Pliego Figueroa, whose brochure design had was chosen as the Arizona Sons of the American Revolution Sergeant Moses Adams founding documents brochure contest winner.

In November, Roselyn, now a freshman at Coronado High School, attended the local organization’s event to be celebrated as the 3rd place winner of the group’s national brochure competition!  Shown here with SAR Arizona President Robert Hoover, SAR Barry M. Goldwater Chapter President Mark Seifert, her parents, and SUSD’s Coordinator of State and Federal Programs, Shawn Crosier, we won’t be surprised to see Roselyn’s future artwork also winning awards. She is studying Studio Art this year at Coronado.

Read more at The SUSD Source