This spring, University of Arizona Athletics will continue their tradition of honoring a grade school teacher in southern Arizona as ‘Teacher of the Year.’

KGUN9 want to introduce you to this year’s nine nominees; we begin our check-in with Mark Calton’s physics class at Marana High School.

Before the bell rang one morning, we sat down to talk to two of Mr. Calton’s former students, Carlos Nieves and Adriana Batista.

The two classmates said when they were sitting in their seats to learn Advanced Placement Physics, Mr. Calton would bring two qualities that helped them succeed: energetic patience, and a deep knowledge of his subject.

“Mr. Calton was always motivated,” Batista said, “and I think part of the reason I didn’t fail, and I did well (in class) was because he was always there.”

“95% of the time, he could understand the approach you’re taking,” Nieves said, “and help you, guide you into the right type of thinking.”

Calton said he relishes those moments when a student grasps what could, at first, feel like a difficult concept. “The nice thing about teaching is, every day, you can have those interactions with the students and they make it worth it,” he said.

As a kid, Calton said, he knew how teachers in his own family made a difference in kids’ lives. Ten years into his career, he’s still eager to understand what’s behind each student’s questions. He also wants to show them the foundation of physics applies to life outside this classroom.

“I’ve figured out the only way to really help somebody learn something new,” Calton said, “is to understand that person and understand how they’re thinking.”

“I really love that (physics) helps force people to think about how they think,” he said, “to think about how they approach the world around them.”

KGUN9 will share more profiles of more awesome teachers this month. UA Athletics will reveal this year’s winner at the Wildcat Men’s basketball game Mar. 2 against Oregon.