Christine Marsh wasn’t supposed to begin her lauded teaching career at Chaparral High School. However, after things fell through at another Scottsdale Unified School District school, a job-seeking Marsh visited the campus on a whim. It wasn’t the first time she set foot on school grounds (Marsh graduated with the Chaparral class of 1984), and it would not be her last: An English teacher had retired just that morning.
“It wasn’t planned, but I kind of feel like it’s fate,” she says.
On the eve of her 25th year of teaching at the school, Marsh isn’t just celebrating a longevity milestone. Last November, Marsh was named the 2016 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year. The award came with more than a nifty title: Marsh also accepted $15,000 and a trip to the White House, among other goodies.
Marsh’s term as Teacher of the Year runs until December. She’s focused on using the spotlight to shine more attention on her advocacy for public schools.
“One of the things I’m really trying to do is elevate the dialogue that public schools are not failing,” she says. Marsh used the opportunity of her White House visit to ask President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to help dispel that “false narrative” and promote public schools. Marsh visits the state Capitol almost every week to speak out. Her students often show up to support her, though she doesn’t ask them to.
What makes Marsh’s award-winning AP English classroom tick? She says she strives to provide a broader perspective on community service, society and the political process. Politicians and public servants often visit the classroom to speak, and Marsh encourages students’ contemporary connections to timeless books, such as today’s racial tensions to To Kill a Mockingbird – her favorite book to teach.
“Every child deserves an education,” she says. “Whatever they come to us with, they deserve a top-notch education.”
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