‘Still in shock’: Kyrene del Cielo kindergarten teacher among 20 in U.S. honored in contest

From left: Kyrene del Cielo kindergarten teacher Megan Dunkelberger, James O’Grady, Joseph O’Grady, Julia O’Grady and Erin O’Grady at the #ThankATeacher contest awards ceremony. — Photo by Andrew Lwowski for wranglernews.com

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By Andrew Lwowoski, for wranglernews.com

On a recent Tuesday morning, Megan Dunkelberger was surprised when her school’s principal told her she was about to be recognized for something only 20 educators across the entire country had achieved.

A kindergarten teacher at Kyrene del Cielo Elementary, Dunkelberger won the merit-based #ThankATeacher contest established by Staples Office Supplies. She received $2,000 for herself and $5,000 in Staples gift cards for the school.

Cielo Principal Tammy Thaete gathered the school’s kindergarten classes and faculty outside to surprise Dunkelberger with news of the achievement, which Dunkelberger said she had no idea was coming. In fact, she said, she thought someone from the district office was visiting—until she saw her husband and younger daughter present.

“I’m still just in shock,” Dunkelberger said.

She said she doesn’t know how she will spend her award.

“No, no idea. I will probably spend on stuff for the classroom, for the kids,” she said.

The nomination came from Erin O’Grady, a parent from last year’s class, who submitted a letter to the Staples’ #ThankATeacher contest after seeing how Dunkelberger went above and beyond in handling the drastic change of teaching that occurred through the COVID-19 pandemic. O’Grady said she got to know Dunkelberger as a result of being in her house—virtually, that is—almost every school day.

In acknowledging the award, Dunkelberger said it was a result of reimagining “how teaching could be on a computer, and we did it.”

What separated Dunkelberger from the rest, according to the award nomination, was when O’Grady came down with pneumonia last year. Dunkelberger was there.

“Megan emailed, saying if you need anything let me know, I’ll drop it off at your door,” O’Grady said.

O’Grady added that she is “grateful everyone could recognize Mrs. Dunkelberger for the great teacher that she is.”

It was noted in the nomination that, during a challenging year, Dunkelberger took time to meet with her class members and their families, in person and outside, while they incubated and hatched chicks in a class science unit.

“What we’re doing matters, and I’m so, so grateful for it,” Dunkelberger said.

She added that she also is “grateful and appreciative” that parents are noticing.

“That’s what we want, so parents know we’re doing a good job.”

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