Sequoia Pathfinder Academy

Sequoia Pathfinder Academy Principal Joseph Jacobo hands Amber Brown her teacher of the year award on Oct. 12 at Sequoia Pathfinder Academy in Buckeye.

Buckeye’s Sequoia Pathfinder Academy is officially a multiaward-winning school, as it is the 2021 recipient of the bronze school and teacher of the year prizes. 

Each year, Edkey — a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality educational services to a variety of institutions throughout Arizona — honors the top schools, students, teachers and staff selected from its 26 sites. 

Fourth grade teacher Amber Brown is this year’s Edkey teacher of the year recipient. And to make it even more special, Brown received the award in front of her family and her students on her birthday. 

“Teacher of the year is something many teachers dream of,” said Joseph Jacobo, Sequoia Pathfinder Academy’s principal.

“The award provides validation for years of hard work and sacrifice for a teaching professional. However, not just anyone can become a teacher of the year. This award requires going above and beyond the grander duties of the teacher to truly make an impact on the school community.

“Our teacher of the year excels in these areas. In addition, she comes up with creative ways to make the standards meaningful and inspires all her students. Of the hundreds of teachers that I’ve worked with in my position as a principal, there is no one more deserving than Amber Brown.”

Brown said she credits her award to her students’ desire to learn in her classroom every day. She added her fellow teachers at Sequoia Pathfinder Academy inspire her to improve her craft. 

“I could not be teacher of the year if I didn’t have students who are respectful, who want to come to school, want to learn, want to grow their brain, that make me able to do my job,” Brown said.

“This has been an incredible experience. We have learned and grown so much as educators here in this organization. So, students, again, you are the reason I’m up here. Hopefully we’ll have another teacher of the year soon.”

Buckeye Councilmember Michelle Hess congratulated her friend during the ceremony. 

“She is dedicated to this community in so many ways, whether it’s been volunteering in the community or teaching another school. I was so excited to see that she was selected, because it is so well deserved,” Hess said. 

In its first year of operation, Sequoia Pathfinder Academy has already been deemed a bronze school of the year. 

“We have 26 schools throughout the state of Arizona, almost 11,000 students and 1,100 employees. We’re not at all small, so to see two awards at one school, that’s pretty impressive,” said Mark Plitzuweit, Edkey president and chief executive officer. 

Plitzuweit said the bronze award reflects the students’ test scores, attendance and enrollment. 

Original plans called for Sequoia Pathfinder Academy to host 326 students the first year. However, the charter school officially welcomed over 420 students on the first day. 

Plitzuweit called the numbers impressive for a school’s first year, especially during a pandemic. 

Buckeye Mayor Eric Orsborn congratulated Brown and all of Sequoia Pathfinder Academy for the school of the year award and was very impressed by the campus on his first visit.

As Orsborn sat among the first graders, he homed in on the importance of an education and told the students their potential is endless. 

“It is very important that you get a really good education here to be able to go on to do what you want to do. There are going to be so many opportunities in this growing community right here close to home, so continue to grow as students and be good citizens of Arizona,” he said. “Teachers, staff, students, thank you for all you do and thank you for being an award-winning elementary school right here in Buckeye, Arizona.”