Kristie Martorelli

Teacher of the Year 2012 - Arizona


When you give the gift of education to a child, you are also giving the gift to the child’s family, community, state and our entire nation – as a child’s future success is our future success.

Last October the mother of one of my former intervention students called me after having a parent-teacher conference with my student’s younger brother. She learned that he was excelling in reading and she wanted to thank me. When I told her that I had nothing to do with his success since he was not one of my students, she told me that she was not calling to thank me for his education, but for her own education. She explained that when her older son had been in my intervention class it was because she was not a strong enough reader herself to help support his early education. However, during the time he was in my program, she also completed the work I was sending home, learning to read along with her son. Now that her younger son is in school she is able help him because she is a better reader. Although you may never know your impact that does not mean that it does not exist.


I will never be able to control the behavior of others. However, I can control my reaction to these behaviors

I once had a student who threw chairs, knocked over desks and destroyed materials. I tried everything I could think of to get him to stop, but no matter how much time out I gave him or how many “fun” activities he missed, I could not eliminate these behaviors. When I reached out to my principal for help, she asked me to describe the situation around each outburst and as I did I slowly began to see a pattern. He was acting out to avoid participation in something in which he would fail. It was then that I realized that I could not eliminate his behaviors unless I controlled my reactions to them. I, as a teacher, had the tremendous power to enable him to change his own behaviour through my support.


The cost of ignorance is greater than the cost of education.

Sir Claus Moser once said, “Education is costly, but then so is ignorance.” It is clear that our founding fathers agreed with this statement and our history demands that we consider education a top priority as we move into the next stage in our nation. We are at a juncture where difficult decisions must be made by all of our citizens. Our legislature must agree on how to divide limited funds into many important areas. However, I ask that you take the time to see what our founding fathers envisioned as our strong educational future and then move forward with renewed commitment to making our states, our students, their families and the communities that we serve places where the American Dream is still possible for all.


The culture of an organization determines the success or failure of any initiative.

The morale of faculty and staff on a school campus is extremely important to the climate of the school. Poor staff morale can have a profound effect on incoming staff, the ability to retain staff and student achievement. There are many strategies that schools can employ in order to help improve staff morale. Some of them focus on relieving stress, some focus on fixing school-wide problems and some are more far-reaching and will require a district, state and/or national shift in thinking and policy. Regardless of the strategy, it is important to have these kinds of discussions and begin taking action. Without improved morale in schools, the educational system is at great risk of losing quality staff and faculty. This kind of loss would be detrimental to student achievement. Therefore, strategies must be discussed and implemented in today’s schools in order to improve the climate of the educational system and create appropriate conditions for greater student progress.


Nothing can be built without first building a relationship.

The most effective teaching is done through targeted, purposeful instruction that is differentiated to meet the individual needs of students in a safe and engaging environment that encourages interactions and the establishment of strong relationships among peers and educators. Before I can be effective as a teacher, I must first know my students. I must learn exactly where they are academically so that I can create lessons which further their strengths and target their areas of weakness. However, it is difficult to get a clear picture of where students are academically if I do not know them well personally. Students and their families must know that I love and appreciate their individual strengths before I can help them build up their weaknesses. The same is true with our colleagues. When we teach each other, we must start from a point of true appreciation and respect or we will never get to the point of reflection and supported improvement.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Kristie Martorelli, a native of Arizona, has spent her entire educational career in the Arizona school system. She graduated from Centennial High School in the Peoria Unified School District and obtained her Bachelors of Arts degree in Education with an ELL endorsement through Arizona State University. She began her teaching career in the Dysart Unified School District over 13 years ago. Since then, she has obtained her Master's degrees in Educational Administration and Supervision with Reading Endorsement as well as Curriculum and Instruction through University of Phoenix, which she now uses as the K-3 Reading Interventionist at Thompson Ranch Elementary School. In November 2011, the Arizona Educational Foundation named Kristie the 2012 Arizona Teacher of the Year. She is now an advocate for the implementation of the Common Core standards and is committed to quality, targeted professional development for educators at all levels.