COE alumni include four Teachers of the Year
By GCU Office of Alumni Relations
In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9), the Office of Alumni Relations at Grand Canyon University spoke with a few graduates from the College of Education who recently were named Teachers of the Year. The four alumni are highly involved in outside programs, after-school activities and community projects, helping to shape the future of education.
Elizabeth Barletta recently graduated with her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She was awarded Baltimore City Schools Teacher of the Year for her unique teaching skills and for creating a teaching plan based on individual student needs.
Barletta is a fifth-grade math and science teacher for Barclay Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore. When she isn’t in the classroom, she is an active member of her school’s instructional leadership team, mentoring student teachers at Loyola University of Maryland and serving as the fifth-grade STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professional development facilitator.
Barletta has seven years of teaching experience and was nominated for Teacher of the Year in 2013 and 2014.
Asked about the importance of her GCU education, she says, “I loved my experience with Grand Canyon! All of the professors I worked with were extremely knowledgeable and supportive throughout my coursework.”
Barletta says that she was able to apply what she learned into her own planning, instruction and practice. She says, “The readings and assignments helped me advance my knowledge in the education field and help support my students in their own education.”
Ayesha Hannibal, a 2012 alumna, has been named the Teacher of the Year at Bates Middle School in Sumter, S.C. She teaches special education and serves as the head of the special education department.
Hannibal earned her master’s in educational leadership and has since used her knowledge and experience to create programs to help support students outside of school. She launched Girls into Real Ladies (G.I.R.L.S) for fourth- and fifth-grade girls to help encourage self-awareness and positive behavior and provide academic support.
Hannibal is a member of the Council of Exceptional Children as well as Delta Sigma Theta. Her goal is to help her students channel their unique qualities so that they can become well-rounded scholars and realize their dreams.
Hannibal says she loved the education program at GCU: “It allowed me to be more creative and think outside the box. Even though I am a nontraditional teacher, I was able to learn different methods that do work with different students. GCU really gave me the push I needed to continue in education.”
Anthony Perez, a 2011 alumnus and second-grade teacher at Burton Elementary School in Glendale, is making a tremendous impact on his students. Perez earned his master’s from GCU and soon began teaching English language development to a class of 23 second-grade students — only six of whom could read at or above their grade level.
Under Perez’s guidance, that number improved to 19. His passion and ability to design lessons around each student’s needs and learning styles were key factors. The Glendale Elementary School District noticed, honoring Perez as a Rookie of the Year and inviting him to serve on the English Language Development Committee — the only first-year teacher to be asked.
Perez credits much of his success to GCU and the mentoring program of the Rodel Foundation of Arizona. While a student at GCU, Perez was named a Rodel Promising Teacher, which gave him the opportunity to be mentored by Rodel Exemplary Teacher Raquel Mendoza. This partnership was instrumental in landing Perez his teaching job at Burton Elementary.
Michelle Clarke, a 2011 alumna who earned her master’s in elementary education from GCU, has been busy teaching eighth-grade math at Madras Middle School in Newnan, Ga. She recently was nominated as Madras Middle School Teacher of the Year as well as Coweta County Middle School STEM Teacher of the Year.
Clarke actually started out as an educational technology support specialist but soon realized she could do more to help students. She went back to school and earned her degree from GCU and started her teaching career in 2010.
Clarke praises GCU’s online program: “GCU’s online master’s program was a perfect fit for my busy schedule, allowing me to work and complete my degree at the same time. As I was finishing, GCU worked closely with my school district, which enabled me to complete my student teaching while working in my middle school.”
Clarke is involved in the community, participating in after-school activities, youth sports and her church, as well as raising awareness about cancer through Relay for Life.
Clarke says if she has one message for teaching professionals, it would be this: “Believe in yourself, that you can make a difference in students’ lives, and believe in your students, that they can be successful.”