Thunderbird Achievement Above All Recipients Honored
Governing Board Honors THS Achievers
Posted on 11/04/2016
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November 2016 – Thunderbird High School’s best of the best were honored Nov. 2 during the annual Achievement Above All awards ceremony. The presentation was made at the Governing Board meeting and recognizes the dedication, service, skills and contributions these individuals and groups have made to Thunderbird.

Achievement Above All Teacher Recipient:

Music director Kris Hutson is this year’s Teacher of the Year for Thunderbird. Mr. Hutson grew up in Texas, where he earned a master’s degree in music from the University of Texas at Tyler. He recently completed a master’s degree in educational Leadership at Arizona State University and has taught music for 23 years, four of which have been at Thunderbird. His leadership with the band has resulted in the musicians qualifying for state.

Jason Latham, assistant principal for student services at Thunderbird and the school’s former band director, said “Kris Hutson has been a respected member of the Arizona band director community for over 25 years. He has an extraordinary ability to motivate his students to exceed well beyond their own expectations while instilling in them a strong work ethic.”

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Achievement Above All Student Recipient:

This year’s Student of the Year is a tri-athlete, at the top 1 percent of his class and has qualified as a National Merit Semi-Finalist. Stephen Graham also plays tenor saxophone in the jazz ensemble and is a member of the National Honor Society. He has plans to attend a university, where he will study aerospace engineering.

Kim Austin is Mr. Graham’s school counselor and she had this to say about him: “By every measure, Stephen is one of the finest students to have attended Thunderbird High School. He is humble, kind and caring. He has earned the respect of students, faculty and administration and has certainly upheld a standard of excellence.”

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Achievement Above All Student Group Recipient:

Thunderbird’s Student Group of the Year is Boy’s Tennis. The team members set records this past year, including having an undefeated 2015 regular season, section champions and state semi-finalists. In 2016 they had section champs and were state quarter-finalists. The team is coached by Karen Horine and Ed Baranowski.

Last year, player Derek James individually went 54-0 in an undefeated regular season and he holds the record for that perfect season. He is currently attending Biola University on a tennis scholarship.

Principal Jeannie Paparella said the coaches are supporting amazing athletes and amazing people.

“[Coach Horine] teaches her young athletes to be true champions, full of grit and integrity,” she said.

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Achievement Above All Support Staff Recipient:

Laura Ilardo was honored as the school’s Support Staff Employee of the Year. She has helped numerous students throughout her 17-year career with Thunderbird as the social worker.

“Laura’s days are filled with acts small and large – from getting school supplies to students who cannot afford them to mediating fights to counseling suicidal students,” fellow co-worker Lauren Kelly said of Ms. Ilardo.

“In her role as district lead social worker, she rallies her colleagues when called upon to do the same on a larger scale,” Principal Paparella said. “Laura not only provides support to students in need at school, but has given hours of her time helping people in the community and beyond.”

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Achievement Above All Volunteer Recipient:

There are more than a handful of ways Volunteer of the Year Ellen Kreamer has contributed to the Thunderbird campus in the last four years. In no particular order of greatness, she has: Assisted with hearing and vision testing, phone coverage, first day of school duties, baseball booster club, Chief Parent Association and more.

Two “bigger” accomplishments among her volunteering have included refurbishing the quad and weight room.

“She has an incredible gift for organization and detail, is extremely insightful, warm, and caring,” Principal Paparella said. “She views volunteering as a valuable and meaningful use of her time. As principal, I am abundantly thankful that Ellen has given so much of herself to the Thunderbird community.”

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Thank you and congratulations to each of the Achievement Above All recipients. We are grateful for your contributions to Thunderbird High School and the Glendale Union High School District community.

Please enjoy this highlight video from the Achievement Above All event.