Mesa teachers

It was a big week for Mesa teachers. Nancy Parra-Quinlan, left, was named a finalist for the 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year Award and Act One announced the first winner of its Tancer Arts in Education Award is Taryn Tidwell of Shepherd Junior High School.


Mesa teachers are  – as the kids say – crushing it.

The Mesa Public School District’s social media was full of cheery news about local teachers getting recognition.

On Thursday, according to an MPS Facebook post:

“We are so excited to announce that Kino Junior High STEM and CTE teacher, Nancy Parra-Quinlan, has been named a top 5 finalist for the 2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year Award! 

“Nancy is now in the running to be named Arizona Teacher of the Year, and could also be Arizona’s candidate for the National Teacher of the Year award.”

Five semifinalists were also named, and all 10 teachers will be celebrated during the Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards Oct. 16.

The day before, MPS posted congratulations to Dobson High photography teacher Michael De Alba, who was a top five finalist for another award – with the winner being yet another MPS teacher:

Act One announced the first winner of its Tancer Arts in Education Award, “given to an Arizona teacher dedicated to sharing a love of the arts with their students.”

The award was earned by Taryn Tidwell, Shepherd Junior High School’s choir and musical theatre director at the school and a cancer survivor.

“Taryn was chosen for her enthusiastic dedication to sharing with her students a love of the arts,” Act One noted.

“She is a powerful voice across the state for the importance and impact the arts have on the overall learning and social emotional well-being of students,” it continued, adding: 

“Her mission as an educator is to provide meaningful and memorable musical experiences and opportunities to students in order to empower them to gain confidence, create lasting friendships, and become active members in their future ensembles, careers, and communities.”

Among the many “congratulations! commenters" was Sarah Underwood Glenn, who noted her daughter “is so lucky to have Mrs. Tidwell as her musical theater and choir teacher. She is literally the reason that Brenna gets up most mornings. She deserves every award that comes her way!”

That sounds about right to Bernadette Carroll, Act One executive director.

“During the nomination process we were introduced to so many talented, dedicated teachers in our state who recognize the importance of the arts,” Carroll said. “Taryn’s story stood out to us, and we could not be presenting the award to a more deserving recipient.”

The Tancer Arts in Education Award was scheduled to be presented at a Sept. 17 event, but the event was postponed “due to increased COVID rates.” Instead, Tidwell will receive her award and prizes during National Arts in Education Week (Sept. 12-17).

In addition to the award, she will receive $1,000, a gift certificate from Changing Hands bookstore and an original piece of art.

The teacher said she was honored and thrilled to receive the award. 

“The arts are such a meaningful and important part of my life, and I am thrilled to be able to continue to advocate for the importance of the arts in education,” Tidwill said. “I had the honor of working with Bob Tancer before he passed, and it means the world to be able to carry on his legacy and love for the arts.” 

The award received its name in memory of Robert “Bob” Tancer, local art advocate extraordinaire, who passed away in March 2020. 

“Bob was an active member of the Act One Board, believing in the organization’s mission and working on the committee to expand the educational depth of the field trip experience,” according to an Act One release.


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