Exceptional Educator Awards

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Classroom with photo of 2021 Exceptional Educator Award trophy on teachers desk.

Phoenix West Rotary and US Acrylic Awards partnered to honor three Phoenix, Arizona Exceptional High School Educators. The awards were presented for each teacher’s dedication to their students, staff and high school community during the Coronavirus Pandemic.


Where: Phoenix West Rotary Meeting at the Doubletree Hilton Phoenix Hotel

When: September 24, 2021

Sponsored by: US Acrylic Awards



Tish Jefferson, Cortez High School

Josephine Sardinha, Sunnyslope High School

Shannon Dinovo, Greenway High School


Each recipient was nominated by their local high school principal. The letters of nomination here represent the contributions made to better each school and the community at large. Congratulations for a job well done.


Tish Jefferson

When looking at the word "value", it holds several meanings: high regard, importance, worth, ideal, to hold very dear.

Tish Jefferson is an individual who Cortez truly values. She has played numerous roles on campus, and all of those roles were essential to keeping the campus afloat during such a trying time. She was the school's social worker, 9th grade transition sponsor, head track coach, and assisted the counseling department and several other departments when needed. To date, Tish is one of Cortez's academic counselors and continues to support and inspire many lives on a daily, hourly, and minutely basis.

Particularly last year, as Cortez's social worker, Tish selflessly worked to assist students, parents, and even staff members with multiple situations. Whether personal or work-related, she immediately provided support and took time to follow up not once, not twice but multiple times, making sure everyone was tackling their challenges with a confident mindset. To add, on a weekly basis, Tish would consistently work with outside resources and assist with providing food to those in need. She also would go out of her way and schedule conferences via phone, WebEx computer, or face to face with families and students who needed her support in not just academics but for their overall social-emotional mental health. All in all, constant reassurance and support were given with ease and grace, all stemming from her office-not to mention doing this from her "pandemic home office" and working beyond her contracted hours, all while being a mom herself, instilling family values and tackling the daily, pandemic toils as well, making sure her own family is supported, protected, and healthy.

In summation, Tish is an ideal individual whose worth is beyond any type of measurable comparison. She is off-the-charts amazing and is a truly wonderful person who is passionate in helping students, staff, and the Cortez community. When it comes to valuing another, Cortez holds Tish dear and is blessed to have her as part of the Colt family.

Brooke Parsons


Cortez High School



Josephine Sardinha

Josephine Sardinha ("Nurse Jo") is the school nurse at Sunnyslope HS and served as the lead nurse for the Glendale Union High School District.

An effective school nurse, in normal times, must come equipped with a collection of characteristics rarely found in one person. An encyclopedic knowledge of the ailments that might befall 2300+ students between the ages of 13-18? That's a prerequisite? The patience, compassion, and empathy to handle the myriad emotional and physical ailments that present as symptoms? That’s a rarer luxury. A level of professionalism that protects individual confidentiality and endures a building filled with people who do a different job and don't understand yours? That's elite level school nursing.

And to find all that in one person? Do whatever you can to keep her.

Now that was the extraordinary Nurse ‘Jo’ we had way back in 2019.

Then 2020 came. And she was even more remarkable.

During a time of unprecedented tumult and uncertainty, Nurse Jo was a pillar of stability, providing helpful information, navigating ever changing protocols, radiating a calm and competence in the middle of the storm. Each day offered a new challenge, presented an unforeseen scenario, and each day, she was a trusted confidant, a thoughtful colleague, and a generous friend.

On one day, I witnessed her administer a lifesaving epi pen shot, assist in contact tracing after a student tested positive for COVID, and provide a student with a pair of shorts following an accident. This all happened before lunch.

Her wisdom, humor, and kindness enriched the lives of all of those with the good fortune to have their path intersect with hers. Everyone survived 2020 thanks to a trusted ally. For so many of us in the Sunnyslope community, Nurse Jo was that ally - a blessing before 2020, an invaluable asset throughout 2020.

Thank you for allowing me to recognize her work.

With gratitude and appreciation,


Jonathan Parker


Sunnyslope High School



Shannon Dinovo

On behalf of the Greenway faculty and staff, it is my honor to nominate and recognize Ms. Shannon Dinovo. Ms. Dinovo is a true representative of our amazing staff, and although we have many great individuals who took extraordinary measures to support students and their colleagues last year, Shannon did it every day, displaying great character and care for every one of the members of the Greenway community.

 On our campus, Shannon holds many roles, but none are more deserving of being recognized than her duties as a teacher and as our school’s technology coach. 

The responsibility of being a teacher is what defines Ms. Dinovo as one of the greatest. She is an amazing teacher! In the classroom, she opens the minds of students to the worlds of Biology, Advanced Placement Biology and Chemistry. Shannon believes that students cannot grasp a true understanding of science simply by reading it out of a textbook. She believes students appreciate and learn much more about science through exploration and connecting experiments to content. When learning shifted from hands-on activities to virtual, Shannon became the true scientist herself, investigating new ways for students to replicate exploratory opportunities with household items and connecting them to the curriculum. Through her computer monitor, she connected with students and opened their eyes to the world of science from their own kitchen at home. 

But as educators, we’re not here to simply deliver material. Teachers support, nurture and drive others to be the best they can be. As I mentioned, Ms. Dinovo also holds the role of Tech Coach on our campus. A tech coach is a staff member who provides support and training for teachers while embedding more technology into their lessons, all while continuing to teach their assigned classes. 

Just as students had to learn differently, teachers had to learn how to teach differently. In a virtual world, technology became at the forefront of lessons. From managing instruction through WebEx to adding a variety of platforms to deliver curriculum and provide feedback, teachers became students themselves and had to speak a new language. Shannon was the support every teacher needed. She provided time, experience and care for her colleagues as they adjusted lessons while continuing to meet the needs of students through technology. 

Her continued support and flexibility are a few examples of how she connected with and supported every member of the Greenway community. Being thrown into a learning environment no student nor teacher chose, Shannon jumped in headfirst, as teachers do, to get the job done. And as she always does, Shannon made connections and built relationships with every member of our learning community, providing the educational and emotional support for students and staff. 

As I mentioned, none of us were trained on teaching and learning during a pandemic, but we did it! On our campus, we were able to support and educate more than 1500 students every day because of the great care and work done by teachers like Shannon Dinovo.

Again, I would like to thank Phoenix West Rotary Club and Mr. Greg Smith of U.S. Acrylic Awards for the opportunity to recognize such an outstanding educator and a member of our staff.


Ed Barnes


Greenway High School




The audience included members of the Phoenix West Rotary Club, including President Alan Noblitt, and award program sponsor Greg Smith, President US Acrylic Awards.

During the presentation of the awards, Phoenix West Rotary Club Past President Mike Tanner commented what a great experience it was to share this honor with US Acrylic Awards in order to bring special attention to three great Exceptional Educators from three Valley High Schools.  It is great to know that despite the challenges brought by COVID, it also brought out the best in these individuals to help support their students, staff and their community.

Learn more about Phoenix West Rotary by visiting Phoenix West Rotary


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