Tempe Diablos honor educators in annual Excellence in Education Awards night

Congratulations to all of our 2020 Excellence in Education Award Winners! We are so thankful to have these amazing educators in our Tempe Union High School District community.

Thank you for celebrating our educators, Tempe Diablos Charities!

Below are the 2020 winners. To watch the ceremony, please visit:www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tun7zZg38U8

Class Act

Jessica Verdugo - Tempe High School

Jessica is a Para Professional to Jeff Richards, a Bridge to Success teacher at Tempe High and McClintock.  Bridge to Success helps students with disabilities gain valuable work experience by taking them into the community to work at various businesses several days a week. Jessica has shown a genuine ability to communicate with Jeff’s students the importance of skills associated with the working environment. In the classroom, she teaches students important skills like writing a resume, filling out a job application, partaking in mock interviews and much more.  Jessica has also built strong relationships with their business owners and their passion for the program. 

Finalist: Kendal Dorland – Desert Vista High School


Meredith Morrissey - Mountain Pointe High School

Meredith teaches Science and is Science department head at Mountain Pointe.  She believes that one high school class can forever change the trajectory of a student’s life.  In the summer of 2015, she took sixteen students to the Amazon Rainforest for ten days. There, they did community service, interacted with local school children, learned about health care in South America and were exposed to all kinds of wildlife. It was a life changing experience for them and many have gone on to study abroad. Meredith loves teaching Environmental Science – mostly because she is a change agent and this class allows her students to become ones as well. Meredith and her students investigate environmental, societal, and economic based issues in their local and global communities and work to create solutions that can be implemented in real-time. 

Finalist: Kelsey Tomlinson – Desert Vista High School

High Impact

David Taylor - McClintock High School

David’s been teaching Business at McClintock High for ten years. He’s the student Academic Interventionist, Business department leader, staff school improvement leader, and DECA club sponsor and been badminton, soccer, and tennis coach. David also leads the after-school tutoring program where more than 90% of those students are now on track for on-time graduation, an amazing feat! He’s worked with teachers and students to double the number of students that are program completers, a number still on the rise. David has led hundreds of students to receive awards in business management and entrepreneurship at the district, state and national level, 20 national qualifiers, and 20 state champions.

Finalist: Kate Roman – Marcos de Niza High School


Jennifer Summers - Desert Vista

Jennifer teaches English at Desert Vista, serves as department chair and is spearheading a set of initiatives that are transforming the department, the school, and soon, the entire district. Before becoming department chair, Jen was one of two teachers to discover, research, and implement the practice of standards-based grading. She experimented with the practice on her own and, after having success with it, implemented it across the entire department upon assuming the role of department chair. Jennifer’s clear and cheerful guidance, willingness to help, and patience with stumbles and mistakes, have united the whole department behind this promising new system. As a result, grades and test data are the best they’ve ever been.

Finalist: Dawn Schmidt – Corona del Sol High School

Rising Star

Marcela Campbell - Tempe High

Marcela is in her second year as the lead teacher of Biology for the International Baccalaureate program and of Honors Human Anatomy for the HOPE Medical Academy at Tempe High – and interacts with her students with the ease of a seasoned veteran.  Quite the techie, she makes all notes and materials available to students online through the district Schoology platform and creates podcasts of the course material with visual aids and lectures to ensure that all students have access to course material at all times. During her first year, she taught 5 classes of freshmen in introductory science. Her innovative style and willingness to share materials brought a new dynamic to the Professional Learning Community made up of all freshmen science teachers. She has a unique talent for bringing out the best in her students and co-teachers.

Finalist: Jamaica Drowne – Marcos de Niza High School

Lifetime Achievement

Greg Hebert - Corona del Sol

Greg is approaching his 27th year as Choral Director at Corona Del Sol HS, where he has built a choral program of 230 students.  In addition to serving in leadership roles on many choral education boards, Greg is also a highly sought-after choral clinician, choral conductor, and conference headliner in the western United States.  This year, 50 of his students were selected to be in the Regional Honor Choir, more than any other school in the region. His students not only develop great talent under his supervision, but great leadership skills. Under Greg’s leadership, his students show great pride and dedication in their choir program where many have gone on to be music educators. Between leading his choir program of 230 students and his full-time job as the Music Minister at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, he has also made time to mentor new choral teachers to the district and has been a great resource for all choral directors in the state.

Finalist: Patrick McChesney – Marcos de Niza High School

Teacher of the Year

Debbie Lenz - McClintock High School

Debbie teaches Chemistry at McClintock and her classes are the highlight of many students’ day.  She is constantly engaged in helping and inspiring students to learn. Before school, at lunch, and after school, her classroom is packed with students coming to work, study, and learn.  Every student that comes into Mrs. Lenz classroom leaves with a greater understanding of chemistry.  And Debbie is driven to prepare lessons that truly engage her students at the next level. She and her students partner with universities to conduct on-site experiments, run computer simulations, build chemical models, practice numerous hands-on chemical labs, and consistently learn at high levels. In past years, more than 98% of students pass her classes and 100% of students who take her class for dual enrollment earn college credit.  Debbie also leads her students in five different extracurricular clubs and five different community service organizations.  Her students say Debbie is a rock star – both inside and outside the classroom!  

Finalists: Felissa Dixon – Marcos de Niza High School & Jill Osborne – Tempe High School