Superintendent Douglas Announces English Learner Teacher of the Year

December 7th, 2017

At the Office of English Language Acquisition Services (OELAS) Conference awards banquet last night, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas announced that the 2017 Arizona English Learner (EL) Teacher of the Year is Kelly Neckels of Amberlea Elementary School in the Pendergast Elementary School District in Phoenix.

“It is an honor to recognize such an outstanding and beloved teacher as Kelly Neckels,” said Superintendent Douglas. “The energy and excitement at the banquet when her name was announced made it very clear how truly deserving she is of the award. Her district’s administration at could not say enough about her devotion towards her craft and her students.”

Neckels was honored at Wednesday night’s OELAS awards banquet at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson. The OELAS Conference, which was entitled “Opening Doors through Language,” also awarded four standout students with prizes for being recognized as English Learner Student Success Stories.

The process for choosing the 2017 Arizona EL Teacher of the Year began with the call for nominations in May 2017. Judging took place in October with a panel of peers, facilitated by OELAS, ultimately choosing the honoree.

On October 27, 2017, Superintendent Douglas and officials from OELAS made a surprise visit to Amberlea Elementary to inform Neckels that she had been selected as the 2017 Arizona EL Teacher of the Year.

When asked to describe her educational philosophy as is relates to teaching EL students, Neckels responded, “My educational philosophy, as it relates to teaching EL students, is to cultivate an environment where my students feel a sense of security to take risks in their learning, to push themselves even further than their academic comfort level and to develop a love and passion for learning all while developing their proficiency in the English language. I also believe that showing my students how much I care about them as people, as well as learners, encourages them to develop positive relationships among each other. When my students feel secure, encouraged and loved, they support each other in their journey to becoming proficient in the English language.”

“I truly feel that every single day that I walk away from teaching my EL students I feel rewarded!” Neckels stated. “I get an overwhelming sense of excitement and pride when I hear my students use complete sentences with their peers or on their own, struggle with a difficult concept but do not give up until they succeed, face their fear of speaking in front of the class, explain how they got their answer on a math problem, or encourage each other to not be afraid to try.”

Neckels graduated with honors from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and earned her Master’s degree in Education from Northern Arizona University. Neckels has been a teacher at Amberlea for the past 11 years, and is currently a third grade Structured English Immersion teacher. She has taught EL students for the past 18 years.