By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Foothills Focus Executive Editor
CCUSD Teacher of the Year 2020 Janet Anderson says all educators deserve her award in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There were no teachers who didn’t deserve that award this year,” said Anderson, an honor pre-ap and IB biology teacher at Cactus Shadows High School.
“It should be shared with every teacher in this district. We’re all facing challenges and going into uncomfortable spots with this virtual platform we have to go through. I might have won the award, but every teacher earned it. It might have my name on it, but it belongs to everyone at the district. It was done out of absolute pure love.”
Anderson was awarded $3,000 and will complete her application for the 2020 Arizona Educational Foundation’s Teacher of the Year program. Also recognized were honorees Kristi Frederiksen, first-grade Chinese immersion teacher at Horseshoe Trails Elementary School, and Lisa Tibbits, second-grade Spanish immersion teacher at Desert Willow Elementary School. Frederiksen and Tibbits received $1,000.
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Gunderson financially supported the CCUSD Teacher of the Year program.
Born in the Philippines, Anderson grew up an “Air Force brat,” with the family traveling around the world. Her father met her mother when she was 17 in Germany, and they were married for 60 years.
“We moved every 18 months or so, mostly over in Europe,” she said. “When my dad retired, we moved to Arizona because my grandfather lived here.
“My dad started working for the city of Phoenix police department and then my mom was hired for this brand-new field—evidence technician, processing crime scenes.”
After graduating college, Anderson worked for Revlon as an analytical chemist and microbiologist. She then applied to work at her mother’s crime lab and their careers overlapped for about three years.
“I worked the first shift,” she said. “For about two hours each day, our shifts overlapped a little bit.”
Anderson was a forensic science for about 20 years, at the Phoenix crime lab, Ventura, California, and in Rochester, New York.
“I was always teaching for police departments on how to process crime scenes and the correct way of doing evidence,” the Glendale resident said. “I started teaching at the college level around 1994. Then I was starting to see there just weren’t any science teachers out there.”
Noticing that deficit, Anderson returned to Arizona to teach at the college level. She teaches at Paradise Valley Community College at night, and during the day at Cactus Shadows High School, where she’s the science department chairwoman.
“This is my way of giving back,” she said. “I was really lucky to have good teachers.
“This year is especially hard. For me, I have seniors graduating this year who I had for three years. I feel their whole experience of high school was ruined. They missed out on prom and graduation. The kids who were really thriving at school have been struggling since we switched over to this virtual format. They were having motivation issues and trying to set up schedules. There’s very, very little we could do to keep them on track and happy. It’s been a rough year.”