Cortez honored with Achievement Above All Awards

Award recipients recognized for achieving above all at Cortez High
Posted on 02/20/2015
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Feb. 18, 2015 -- Cortez High School shone brightly Wednesday evening as a teacher, student, student group, support staff member and volunteer were recognized before the Governing Board.

Cortez High School Principal Walter Sampson presented each Achievement Above All Award to the Governing Board while describing the characteristics and traits which led the honorees to receive it. Each portrayed the pillars of being “Cortez Strong,” Sampson said.

Cortez’s Achievement Above All Teacher award went to Kevin Starchman, who is an alumni of Cortez and returned to focus his career teaching the subjects of economics, U.S. history and world history.

Starchman’s teaching style is “passionate, relentless, innovative and spicy,” Sampson said.

“In a short time he has established himself as an innovator, motivator, advocate and skilled instructor,” he said. “There is not a patch of sidewalk that is sacred to chalked economic graphs and tables.”

Cortez newspaper reporter Breanna Johnson wrote that Starchman, “goes above and beyond the standards to ensure his students are successful. By successful, I don’t mean solely for their final, but for their future.”

In addition to teaching, Starchman sponsors the Gardening Club, co-sponsors the Academic Decathlon and Junior Class.

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The Achievement Above All Student Honoree award was presented to senior Diana Quintero Pacheco, who is ranked in the top one percent of her class.

Her helpful and positive demeanor toward her fellow classmates made her an obvious choice for the award, Sampson said.

“She reaches out and offers help to her classmates whenever necessary,” he said. “This transcends outside the classroom in working, helping and leading others through her work in Student Council, where she is the president, National Honor Society, National Hispanic Honor Society, and as a volunteer for the Arizona Immigrant and Refugee Services.”

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The Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps was this year’s recipient of the Achievement Above All Student Group award. The 120-member group is a prime example of dedication, responsibility and respect as they uphold values of citizenship and service to the United States.

NJROTC Cadet Oscar Gonzales said, “ROTC’s motto is ‘Honor, Courage and Commitment.’ These three words changed my life freshman year, turning me in the right direction, keeping me out of trouble and keeping me on a good path.”

NJROTC members participate in classroom activities of leadership training, health education, academic competitions, ACT/SAT prep and co-curricular activities of physical fitness, air rifle marksmanship, orienteering, drill, campus support and community service. More than 1,500 hours of community service work is completed each year by the cadets.

Representing the NJROTC are Company Commander James Graves, Executive Officer Sally Tutwiler and Command Master Chief Willie Ward. The Senior Naval Science Instructor is Chief Warrant Officer Dan Vass and the Naval Science Instructor is Command Master Chief Stephen Bowes.


Although Cortez social worker Tish Jefferson has been with the school for a short time, she is already “Cortez Strong.” She received the Achievement Above All Support Staff Member award and is described as “caring, compassionate, real, relentless and a prankster.”

“She has reached out to community leaders to develop partnerships to help families in our community with Thanksgiving meals and Christmas presents,” Sampson said. “In her day-to-day contact with students and families, she is providing emotional support for a variety of concerns ranging from family conflict to relationship issues to stress management, to mention just a few.”

Separate from these responsibilities, Jefferson sponsors the Fashion Club and Sophomore Class.

“Cortez is truly fortunate to have such a dynamic and caring person who not only impacts the lives of the students, but also the faculty, staff and parents on a daily basis,” Sampson acknowledged.

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The final award of the evening went to James and Monica Halfhill, Cortez’s Achievement Above All Volunteers of the Year recipients.

The couple has supported the school’s dance and theater programs throughout the last five years.

“This year they loaned the Drama Club approximately half of the props used for the haunted house,” Sampson said. “The haunted house would not have been a success without their contributions and help. We thank them and appreciate all that they have done, loaned and donated.”

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