Thunderbird's Best Celebrated at Annual Event

Thunderbird honored at Achievement Above All Event
Posted on 10/19/2017
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October 2017 – Thunderbird High School’s best of the best were honored October 18 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:

Donna West taught at Independence High School for 15 years before coming over to Thunderbird, where she is the senior English and Advanced Placement Language and Composition teacher. Her responsibilities include serving as the department chairperson, PLC team lead, AzMERIT tutor, SAT/ACT prep class teacher, Site Council member, Academic Decathlon Coach, DAC, Honors and Awards Committee and NHS Co-Sponsor.

“To all of these areas, Donna brings grace, intellect and professionalism,” Principal Jeannie Paparella said.

“My passion involves witnessing students, especially ones who claim they don’t like to read, get excited or moved by the written word,” West said. “On our best days, class discussions have a synergistic effect, where students deepen their level of understanding through the comments and ideas of their peers.”

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Achievement Above All Student Recipient:

Maryam Matta has overcome many obstacles in her life but they haven’t prevented her from becoming a top 1 percent student in her class, with aspirations to attend medical school. She fled her home country of Iraq for Syria in 2006 and then left Syria for the United States in 2009. Maryam’s classes include AP physics, AP government, AP Spanish, AP calculus BC and AP literature – with a combined average of 97 percent.

This brilliant mind is also a giving person. She is a member of the National Honor Society, a tutor, member of the badminton and tennis teams, the Book Cub, Go Green Club, Human Society Club and Neuroscience Club.

“By every measure, Maryam is one of the finest students to have attended Thunderbird High School. She has made a significant contribution to the greatness that Thunderbird High has enjoyed,” Paparella said.

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Achievement Above All Student Group Recipient:

Thunderbird’s Student Group of the Year recipient is the Outdoors Club. The group is comprised of about 25 members and is sponsored by Joseph Clements. The purpose of the group is to encourage healthy experiences for teens in the outdoors. The Outdoors Club prepares students for the unique challenges found in the outdoors.

“In a time where many teens spend an excessive amount of time and energy on electronic devices, this group emphasizes exercise, camaraderie and an appreciation for nature,” Paparella said.

Club activities include hiking, ice skating, mountain biking, kayaking, paintballing, archery and more.

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Achievement Above All Support Staff Recipient:

Dani Patten is this year’s Support Staff Employee of the Year. She has been with Thunderbird for four years now as an instructional assistant with the Read 180 program, math and Pride Point learning center.

Dani is known for her work ethic, driven by pride in her work and her ability to take initiative, Paparella said.

“She takes time to build relationships with students and students adore her,” she said.

When she’s not in the classroom assisting students, Ms. Patten is often out enjoying time with her dogs, watching sports or visiting her grown children who are attending college on opposite sides of the country. She said she looks forward to spending more time with them and her future grandchildren.

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Achievement Above All Volunteer Recipient:

The volunteer of the year has contributed to Thunderbird and the community at large in a number of ways. Alice Starzinski’s oldest child is a THS graduate and her daughter currently attends as a senior.

Ms. Starzinski has volunteered in a number of capacities, including as the Chief Parent Club president and chairperson of various fundraisers.

“Alice has been a lifelong contributor to her community through volunteering,” Paparella said. She has a gift for organization and detail, and makes it look easy. The silent auction and golf tournament fundraisers require months of preparation and chairing CPA is untold hours of work. Thunderbird High School is truly blessed with parents and community members who consistently support our mission to prepare students for life after high school through a quality education experience.”

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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.