Sara Wyffels, a Spanish teacher at Chandler High School in the Chandler Unified School District is the Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2021 Arizona Teacher of the Year.

Wyffels was selected from the five 2021 Ambassadors for Excellence that were identified by the foundation last month as finalists. The award was announced during the Arizona Educational Foundation’s virtual awards ceremony on Friday, October 23rd.

Desert Financial Credit Union served as the 2021 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards presenting sponsor. “Supporting education has been a long tradition of ours, and it was our pleasure to serve as Title Sponsor for the 2021 Arizona Teacher of the Year Award,” said Jeff Meshey, President and CEO at Desert Financial Credit Union. “Teachers have always influenced the future but this year, their adaptability and dedication really cemented their hero status,” he added. 

A veteran teacher of 14 years, Sara Wyffels teaches Spanish Level 2 and International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement levels 5 and 6 at Chandler High School. She is a nationally board certified teacher who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Western Washington University and her Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Portland. The ignition for her language learning journey was sparked by her study abroad experience in college and she is passionate about teaching the power of human connections through the Spanish language. Wyffels learned Spanish as a second language, which has shown her the power of adventure and the beauty of the human spirit, which are themes integrated into her Spanish classes. She considers herself and her students global citizens who have the ability to make a positive difference in the world every day.

Wyffels became a teacher to make a difference. “I choose to teach and I choose to remain a teacher. Being a teacher is one of the most fulfilling careers an individual can have because you’re changing lives. As a Spanish  teacher, I see firsthand how the power of language  inspires human connection.  Teaching language isn’t just about learning new vocabulary; it’s opening the eyes of my students to a world beyond themselves and teaching them how to be global citizens.”

As the new Arizona Teacher of the Year, Wyffels will engage in a “year of recognition” as an Ambassador for the teaching profession, delivering over a hundred speeches and making public appearances throughout the state and the nation. As Arizona’s Teacher of the Year, Wyffels becomes a candidate for National Teacher of the Year. She will receive $15,000 from the Arizona Educational Foundation and paid travel – COVID permitting – to the White House to meet the U.S. President, and will spend a week at International Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. She will also be given professional speech training, consideration to receive an honorary doctorate from Northern Arizona University, and an Arizona K12 Center Scholarship to attend the Teachers Leadership Institute. She will also be a participant in the Fiesta Bowl Parade and receive a “virtual” Intel experience courtesy of Intel Arizona.

Additionally, AEF named its four Teacher of the Year finalists, called “Ambassadors for Excellence,” who will serve with Wyffels as spokespersons for their profession, advocating for excellence in the classroom by making presentations statewide to education, civic, government, and professional organizations. To book an appearance by the Arizona Teacher of the Year or one of the four Ambassadors, please contact Kim Graham at

The four 2021 Ambassadors for Excellence are:

• Estevan Carreon (Special Education), Independence High School, Glendale Union High School District;

• Jillian Hernandez (Elementary Education), Puente de Hózhó Elementary School, Flagstaff Unified School District;

• Sara Mora (Career and Technical Education), Wrightson Ridge School, Sahuarita Unified School District;

• Hillary Stacey (Chemistry), Empire High School, Vail Unified School District.

Five additional teachers were selected as Semifinalists and recognized during the ceremony:

• Jeffrey Mann (World History), Flowing Wells High School, Flowing Wells Unified School District;

• Sharisse Nunes (Elementary Education), Falcon Hill Elementary, Mesa Public Schools;

• Nicole Powell (Elementary Education), Las Sendas Elementary, Mesa Public Schools;

• Shaylyn Savage (Special Education) Sunset Ridge Elementary School, Pendergast Elementary School District;

• Elizabeth “Liz” Shaw (Social Studies), Rincon Vista Middle School, Vail Unified School District.

AEF’s annual Teacher of the Year program is the only statewide program to spotlight and honor Arizona’s public school teachers for excellence in teaching. The annual Teacher of the Year program is the premier event of the Arizona Educational Foundation, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to spotlighting the exceptional work of public schools. 

“Public schools in Arizona employ some of the best and most dedicated teachers in the state,” says Kim Graham, Executive Director of the Arizona Educational Foundation. “Ms. Wyffels and the other teachers honored with the award are outstanding examples of the quality of Arizona’s public school educators. I have the utmost respect and admiration for all of our teachers and the efforts they make daily to improve the lives of Arizona students.” said Graham.