Cortez Achievement Above All Winners Recognized

Governing Board Honors CHS Achievers
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February 2016 – The Glendale Union High School District Governing Board honored Cortez High School’s Achievement Above All recipients on Feb. 3. The special event recognizes distinguished members of Cortez, including volunteers, teachers, support staff, students and student groups.

Principal Walt Sampson introduced each award recipient to the Governing Board. He described the winners as an “outstanding group that represents the strength, uniqueness and togetherness of Cortez High School.”

Achievement Above All Teacher Recipient:

Jennifer Starchman has been a Cortez Colt for a good portion of her life. She graduated from Cortez and returned to the school to teach math. Teaching everything from Algebra 1 to pre-calculus, Mrs. Starchman is the “algebra guru of Cortez,” Mr. Sampson said.

“Jennifer goes above and beyond solving equations, she ensures that the students not only understand the how and why, they also have fun doing it,” he said. “It is a daily occurrence to find a room full of students before and after school working and being tutored in math, some of the students are not even her own students. Her passion and dedication is so great that as her husband Kevin states, ‘it’s difficult to pry her out of her classroom even though its well past 4:30 p.m.’”

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Achievement Above All Student Recipient:

In addition to being one of the highest ranking students in her class, Loza Brook is a role model for those around her, Mr. Sampson said.

She is a member of Student Council, where she holds the title of Student Body President; is a member of the National Honor Society as Vice President; participates in the AP Mentor Program, Chick fil a Leader Academy, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and SADD Club. Outside of school, Ms. Brook is a volunteer at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Youth Forum and Maids of Athena.

“Loza has had a tremendous impact on the academic environment here at Cortez High School,” Mr. Sampson said. “Her enthusiasm for learning and focus on the mastering of material, serves as an example for other students. She inspires those she encounters to dig deeper and to do their best.”

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Achievement Above All Student Group Recipient:

The LINK Crew is 31 members strong and just began on the Cortez campus this year. The student group is a friendly bunch of students whose main role is to help ninth graders transition successfully from middle school to high school.  It is sponsored by Nicole Webb and Katrina Glenn.

In its first year, LINK Crew has already supported students in a variety of ways.

“Outstanding leaders on Cortez’s campus are striving to create a community of support for our freshmen class,” Mr. Sampson said.

The crew has supported students academically and socially. They hosted a Freshman Orientation on the first day of school, a Freshman Dance at the end of first quarter and throughout the year offer opportunities for tutoring sessions to prepare students for exams.

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Achievement Above All Support Staff Recipient:

Called “spunky,” “happy” and “enthusiastic,” Cortez’s Support Staff Member of the Year is Teresa Penzone. She has been a special education instructional assistant, specifically helping students with learning disabilities who attend mainstream classes, for three years.

“It’s not uncommon to find Teresa working with students in remedial math or English classes one hour and then the next hour she is assisting in junior English, world history, environmental science,” Mr. Sampson said. “She is Cortez’s version of a super hero.”

Furthermore, Mr. Sampson said Mrs. Penzone is a calm presence for students.

“If a student is struggling, it won’t be long before you will see this guardian angel, with her infectious smile, powerwalking down the sidewalk to their aide. The look on their faces when she comes in the room is relief and ease that they won’t be lost for long,” he said.

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Achievement Above All Parent/Volunteer Recipient:

The final recipient of the evening was Volunteer of the Year, Connie Beyer.

Mrs. Beyer volunteers in the school’s media center, where her daughter, Jennifer Beyer, is the director.

“Over the past five years, Mrs. Beyer has become a positive and welcoming person to the Cortez Media Center,” Mr. Sampson said. “Be it a cashier for the book fairs, liaison for a visiting author or as interior designer sprucing up the media center, her warmth and caring permeates all that she does around the center.”

The time she spends helping the students and staff of Cortez is greatly appreciated, Mr. Sampson said.

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Congratulations to all Cortez Achievement Above All recipients!

Please enjoy this highlight video from the evening’s presentation.