From National Parks to Teacher of the Year
By Tara Fort
One day of substitute teaching was all it took for Courtney Check to seal the deal on her dream of becoming a teacher. An English Major from University of Missouri, Check worked for the National Park system after college. “I was in customer service and I thought it was finally time to return to the classroom. I substitute taught one day at Mile High Middle School; the very next day I signed up to get certified.”
Check now teaches English at Prescott High School (PHS), and for all involved, her participation is a win-win. Her students experience firsthand how she impacts them. Her peers have had the opportunity to co-teach through an infused learning education model. And, Check herself, is continually enriched. “What is so incredible about my career is one day you can feel very beat up, and the very next day, students perform on a level that refills your cup.” The District acknowledged Check’s efforts via her selection as Yavapai County High School Teacher of the Year through the Yavapai County Education Foundation—an award that only solidifies the commitment of the talented pool of educators and administrators that Prescott is so lucky to have.
Check’s true calling came early. “I’m very blessed to have known I always wanted to be a teacher. From the time I was in Kindergarten, my favorite game was to play ‘school’. What I love best now is the entire emotional, cognitive, social dynamic in my classroom.” From playing school, to working in the National Parks 15 years ago, to Teacher of the Year—Check’s life has come full circle. The award itself is an honor that starts with peer nomination. “When PHS Principal Stephanie Hillig informed me I was nominated in my category, I immediately told her that there had to be someone else! It was very humbling in that immediate moment to receive that news.“
Giving back is not just lip service for Check. At the end of each school year, Check reminds her students to continue reading over the summer. One year, a student admitted he had never read To Kill a Mockingbird. Despite the surprise shown by his peers—who had all read the classic in previous years— Check went over to her personal bookcase, retrieved a worn copy of the book and gave it to the student. “Everyone cheered! That’s the kind of support we have in my classroom. It is one of my greatest joys to see students support each others’ enthusiasm for learning.”
With a newly-awarded distinction added to her resume, Check is also attending the University of Phoenix through a full-ride scholarship she received in December 2016 to obtain her Master’s Degree. “As I go through my Masters, I realize there is so much about education that I hadn’t known. I’m really excited to work on my Masters so I can have that ‘fire’ next year teaching. There is no way for us to look 10 years in the future to see what technology will be like for our students, or what their jobs will be like, so we are tasked with educating students to be as flexible as their future holds. We have a pretty big job.”
For more information about PUSD, visit www.prescottschools.org.