Ash Creek Elementary School is a K-8 school in Sunizona, with three teachers and 35 students. The rural school may be small, but has Cochise Countys Teacher of the Year.

Yvette Bertrand was awarded the title by the county superintendent’s office for 2024.

I was not one that was born and raised saying I want to be a teacher,” she said. It’s definitely an unexpected honor. It makes me feel valued and needed. I’m just overwhelmed and blessed that I was able to get that title.

Bertrand started teaching in Cochise County seven years ago. She’s spent the last six years as a K-2 teacher at Ash Creek. She says her favorite part about teaching is seeing students light up when they understand a topic, and knowing she helped to shape who they will grow up to be.

“That’s why I stay,” Bertrand said. “Because of the kids. They’re my reason. They’re my why.”

Her dedication to her students and adaptability is why her principal, Sue Shepard, says she’s deserving of the top teacher award.

She is one that I’ve put a lot of work on this last year as far as helping out and taking charge, and she’s not afraid to do that; she will step up, Shepard said.

Bertrand says she is willing to take on more roles because of Shepard’s support.

When I’m told I’m appreciated and I’m wanted and I’m needed, that makes me go, ‘Yes, I want to do more,'” she said. “I want to keep going. I want to do more.

Bertrand says, early in her career while working in a another district she was told she wasnt a good teacher, which made her want to quit teaching. After some time away from the classroom she found the right school to help her find her passion for teaching again. She says her recent awards are giving her a sense of validation.

It just makes me say, ‘Okay, I’ve done good and I’ve done well staying with it, and not allowing bad stuff to make me change my mind,’ Bertrand said.