By Selwyn Harris
Seven Pahrump Valley educators were honored for outstanding work as teachers on Saturday.
The Stand for Children Day Celebration and Teacher of the Year awards ceremony was hosted by the NyE Communities Coalition and put on at its facility on East Wilson Road.
It was the 13th annual event spotlighting the town’s best teachers.
Nye County School District Superintendent Dale Norton said he was more than honored to open the ceremony.
He said he was proud to say he has known many of those honored for more than a decade.
“It is focused on teachers and what they do with our kids every day. The fun thing for me is some of these teachers are former students of mine. Some of these teachers are former employees of mine as building principal and I know a lot of the families through my experiences in the Pahrump Valley and the Nye County School District. Everybody keeps me feeling youthful because we’re working with those youth. I was just thinking about that yesterday; I’ve been here a long time but it’s great because we have built great relationships in this community,” he said.
Community Christian Academy Teacher Vanessa Clouser was the first to be honored.
Surrounded by family and friends, she said she was grateful to be selected as Teacher of the Year, all the while giving praise to her fellow colleagues.
“I’m just real excited that I got this honor from the teachers at my school. I work with a great staff so it’s a real big blessing,” she said.
Clouser has been teaching for six years, two of which have been in Nye County. She said she chose her career because she admired all of her teachers when she was a student years ago in Pahrump.
“I wanted to give back to the community I grew up in. I had great teacher influence, like Heather Freeman and other people like Jason Odegard, so I just wanted to give back to the community,” she said.
Katie Floyd is a fifth grade teacher at Floyd Elementary School.
She too said she was excited to be selected as Teacher of the Year, but the recognition caught her completely off guard.
“I was surprised to be nominated and I feel very honored. I work with a great group of teachers so their recommendation means a great deal to me,” she said.
Floyd has taught for nine years with the Nye County School District.
She is in her second year at Floyd Elementary after teaching for more than six years at the former Mt. Charleston Elementary School, which closed its doors last July.
Floyd said she chose teaching because she felt it was her calling.
“I feel like teaching is something that I’m good at. I enjoy the company of children and encourage them to improve their lives,” she said.
Barbara Fay began her 10-year teaching career in New England before moving out west.
She has been educating students at Hafen Elementary School for more than two years.
She said special education is what she gravitated to after college.
“I’m originally from Boston, Mass., and special education is my thing. To help the kids is very rewarding. I feel it’s an honor and a great thing to be chosen as Teacher of the Year for Hafen,” she noted.
Capturing the Teacher of the Year title at J.G. Johnson Elementary was Kindergarten Instructor Tammy Baltutat, who like many of her fellow teachers, said she was quite honored to be selected for such a recognition.
“I’ve been teaching in Nye County for eight years and I’m very honored that my colleagues would choose me as Teacher of the Year,” she said.
Baltutat initially taught at J.G. Johnson for about six years. She transferred to Floyd Elementary for a few years before returning to J.G. Johnson last year.
She said teaching was something that she thought would be a great career.
“I’ve always been told that I work well with kids, so I decided I should give it a shot and found that is where my passion is,” she said.
Lisa True hails from the newest elementary school in Pahrump.
She was hired by Dale Norton 12 years ago to teach at the old Manse Elementary School.
Now at the new Manse campus, True said it was a great privilege to have the distinction of being named Teacher of the Year.
“I work with a great group of hard working, dedicated teachers seeking the success of all of our children and I’m very proud to be part of that group. I just really love working with children. Having my own children and I always love seeing each new milestone and the successes and the progress that children make; it’s just very rewarding,” she noted.
“I was shocked because I found out when a friend congratulated me. I had no clue and I’m really quite pleased,” said Rosemary Clarke Middle School Science Teacher Robin Gourley.
As Teacher of the Year for the sole middle school in Pahrump, Gourley has the most years of teaching under her belt compared to her six other colleagues.
“At Rosemary Clarke, I taught seven years. Overall, 24 years. I taught in Utah, California, and Nevada,” she said.
Gourley also said she decided to become a school teacher at a very young age.
“When I was in kindergarten, when we would pick our play areas, I would always go to the teacher corner. I used to teach all of my dolls, stuffed animals, and everybody. I always wanted to be a teacher. At one time I tried looking at other professions because when I was in high school, there was a flood of teachers and they would tell me ‘You can’t get a job,’ but there was nothing else I wanted to do, so here I am,” she said.
Equally surprised with the Teacher of the Year recognition was Pahrump Valley High School’s Science Teacher Robin Williams, who suggested he wasn’t exactly sure if he truly earned the title this year.
“With the caliber of people I work with, I’m shocked because there’s so many teachers at the high school who are so good, that this is way more than I deserve. This is my third year and Pahrump was my first job. I’m in awe. I don’t really know what I did, but I’m very grateful,” he said.
Williams said that he was inspired to teach because growing up he had many teachers who were undecided in their career field, but chose to teach nonetheless.
“I had a lot of teachers growing up who became teachers because they didn’t know what to do with their life. A lot of times, that shows through and I think that is very important that our kids get people teaching them who want to be there, because if they don’t want to be there the students know and it affects how they learn,” Williams said.
Former Nye County School District Trustee Dennis Keating has emceed the event for the past 12 years.
Following the ceremony he said he’s already looking forward to next year.
“This is the 13th year for me and it’s a wonderful program put on by St. Martin’s in the Desert Episcopal Church and NyE Communities Coalition where they recognize Teachers of the Year in the Pahrump community from both Nye County School District and the Community Christian Academy. We always have student entertainment that comes out and entertains us so it’s a way of giving back to their teachers,” Keating said.