Sunnyslope's Best Recognized at Awards Ceremony

GUHSD Governing Board Honors Sunnyslope Achievement Above All Recipients
Posted on 04/04/2019
This is the image for the news article titled GUHSD Governing Board Honors Sunnyslope Achievement Above All Recipients April 2019 - A celebration was held Wednesday, April 3, during the GUHSD Governing Board’s regular meeting to honor the teacher, student, student group, support staff member and volunteer of the year for Sunnyslope High School. This annual Achievement Above All event serves as an opportunity to showcase the recipients’ contributions, talents and dedication to the Vikings community. During the event, Sunnyslope Principal Steve Ducey admirably recognized the recipients in front of the governing board, superintendent and those in attendance. 

Achievement Above All Teacher Recipient:

Physical Education Teacher Sarah Schlesinger was honored as Sunnyslope’s Achievement Above All Teacher recipient. Ms. Schlesinger is a prior Sunnyslope student and graduated with the class of 1994. Her decision to return to her former high school to teach P.E. was influenced by her mentor and Sunnyslope Badminton Coach, Bobby Forner.

“In 2000, Sarah stepped into the role of her mentor Bobby Forner and joined our physical education department,” Ducey said. “She continued to assist Coach Forner and a few years later, took over the reigns as head coach with Bobby as her assistant.”

On top of teaching P.E., Advanced P.E. and Systematic Conditioning, Ms. Schlesinger has coached badminton now for 20 years and has led the team to five state championships. AZ Central has recognized her on multiple occasions as one of the most outstanding coaches in Arizona. 

Ducey added that Ms. Schlesinger is passionate about her students and has become an integral part of the Viking culture and family. 

“As a principal and parent, I can tell you that Sarah is passionate about motivating her students and athletes to live a healthy life, teaching them to work hard, make good decisions, stay fit and have fun,” Ducey said. “She is a mentor and the type of role model every parent wants working with their student.”

Sarah Schlesinger 1 Sarah Schlesinger 2

Achievement Above All Student Recipient: 

The Student of the Year award went to Sunnyslope senior Sarah Kanner. With a weighted GPA of 5.11 and being ranked in the top one percent of her class, Kanner excels academically at Sunnyslope.

“From the onset, Sarah has been an amazing student and a phenomenal human being, excelling in academics and taking in the full high school experience through her involvement in traditions, clubs, athletics and community service,” Ducey said. 

Currently, Kanner takes several AP courses including AP Literature, AP Biology, AP Government/Economics, AP Spanish Literature, AP Calculus BC and Journalism. She is very involved in Sunnyslope athletics and has contributed in varsity soccer, cross country and track and field. In addition, she dedicates her time to assisting Sunnyslope ELL students and the Freshman Transition Link Crew. 

For her future college and career goals, she plans to study biomedical engineering to create opportunities to apply engineering solutions to medical problems. She has been accepted to ASU, Georgia Tech, Rochester Institute of Technology, John Hopkins, Washington University (St. Louis), the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Virginia.

Kanner’s AP Biology teacher Ms. Linnartz believes that no matter which university or career path Kanner decides, she will prevail and have much success. 

“Sarah Kanner is one of the most innately intelligent, self-motivated, inspiring students I have had the pleasure of teaching,” Linnartz said. “She is patient and compassionate and leads by example. Truly she’ll be outstanding at whatever career path she chooses.”

Sarah Kanner 1 Sarah Kanner 2

Achievement Above All Student Group Recipient:

The Sunnyslope United Sports Club, sponsored by Scott Gilpin, was honored with Student Group of the Year. The group’s motto is ‘Smiles Minute by Minute, Experiences of a Lifetime’. Along with this motto, they have a solid set of three core values which are friendship, understanding and inclusion. 

The mission of Sunnyslope Unified Sports is to increase partnered sports, training and participation of students with and without disabilities. This mission is driven by the club’s student leadership structure and is supported by the program and club sponsors. 

In its first year the program has successfully established club organization and youth leadership development as well as generated many inclusive competitions such as unified badminton, basketball, track and field and Guardian Games. 

Some future plans that Sunnyslope Unified Sports hopes to accomplish are to develop additional unified district programs and events and to gain more national Special Olympic recognition. 

Sunnyslope Athletic Director Tim Matteson acknowledges the diligence of the unified sports club. 

“The unified sports program at Sunnyslope has come so far in an incredibly short amount of time”, Matteson said. “The hard work and dedication of Coach Gilpin and Coach LeTarte, along with the support of the entire staff, has created an opportunity for our unified athletes to participate in sports like never before and our partner athletes to gain the experience of a life-time.”

Sunnyslope Unified Sports 1 Sunnyslope Unified Sports 2

Achievement Above All Support Staff Recipient: 

Support Staff of the Year was awarded to Sunnyslope Bookstore Manager Nayla Olvey. Prior to landing in her current role at Sunnyslope, Olvey attended the University of Vermont. Shortly after, she began working at Sunnyslope as the front-desk receptionist and a year later, she transitioned to bookstore manager, the position she has held for 10 years now. 

As a past athletic director working with Olvey and the bookstore, Ducey believes she is one of the best bookstore managers in the district, he said.

“She has a great work ethic, is very dependable and excels at solving problems,” Ducey said. Our bookstores in our district continue to go through many challenges with ever changing auditing and accounting technology and systems that each have stiff learning curves. Nayla stays the course and provides district leadership, all while maintaining the same level of bookstore service to our campus needs.”

Olvey also works in multiple capacities at Sunnyslope. When she’s not attending to her duties in the bookstore, she is out contributing to Sunnyslope’s athletics and performing arts events.

When at work, the opportunities of interaction are what keep Olvey’s job amusing, she said.
“What I like most about my job is that each day is different and I see a variety of people which keeps it interesting,” Olvey said. “I get to engage with students, parents, faculty, coaches and staff.”

Nayla Olvey 1 Nayla Olvey 2

Achievement Above All Volunteer Recipient:

Hillary Rusk was honored as Sunnyslope’s Volunteer of the Year. Rusk is very passionate about giving back to Sunnyslope and its students, as she is a former Viking herself. 

“Hillary finds volunteering rewarding and loves to better the environment around her, making life experiences better for her kids and others and creating strong family settings,” Ducey said. 

Rusk is very involved on Sunnyslope’s campus and contributes in many different clubs and activities such as being the president of the Viking Parent Club.

“As a highly respected member of the Viking Parent Club for many years now, Hillary has spent countless hours assisting staff members and student groups with events and activities on and off campus, advocating for Sunnyslope High School within the Sunnyslope community, and lending support and providing resources as a local business owner,” Ducey said. 

For four years she’s been a member of student council. Other volunteer activities she’s participated in are helping with override initiatives and attending various district meetings. In addition, Rusk has been a critical partner on the Sunnyslope prom committee and theatre arts department. 

“She is truly an asset to our students, staff and programs,” Ducey said. 

Hillary Rusk 1 Hillary Rusk 2

Congratulations to Sunnyslope’s 2018-2019 Achievement Above All Recipients.  

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