Arizona Council of Engineering and Scientific Associations
GCOI's Arizona Teacher of the Year

Governor's Celebration of Innovation

Honoring a Teacher of the Year (AzTOY) has been part of the Arizona landscape for many years, and in the early 2000's the Arizona Technology Council under the leadership of Steve Zylstra, in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority headed by Sandra Watson, incorporated this award program into their annual technology awards showcase. The Teacher of the Year award winners represent the best of the best of Arizona educators in STEM and CTE curriculum.

2022 entry information.

See a list of winners and runners-up.

Characteristics of an AzTOY

Teachers are the lifeblood of a student’s education. A good teacher can make a world of difference in a student’s life, impacting everything from their classroom learning to their long-term success. A successful teacher will show excellence not only in the classroom, but also as a mentor for both students and professional colleagues. From a student perspective, one study identified the following qualities of a teacher:

  1. the ability to develop relationships with their students,
  2. having a patient, caring and kind personality,
  3. possessing knowledge of learners,
  4. dedication to teaching, and
  5. the ability to engage students in learning.

Additional skills that previous awardees have demonstrated are:

  1. connecting students with outside professionals,
  2. motivation to participate in science fairs,
  3. extracurricular projects and clubs, and
  4. leading professional development of colleagues.

The Competition

AzTOY is a self-nominated competition held annually to identify Arizona's top STEM and CTE teacher(s), and honorees are recognized during the Governor's Celebration of Innovation (GCOI) showcase. The showcase also recognizes Arizona's Future Innovator(s) of the Year (FIOY) selected from the state's top STEM students. Award adjudication is conducted by ACESA.

The competition is open to all Arizona High School teachers of STEM, CTE or Technology related subjects. Some recent AzTOY and FIOY winners are listed at

Judges from several different professional areas review the AzTOY applications which cover many performance areas including classroom techniques and success, and mentoring and extracurricular activities for both teachers and students. Winner recognition takes place at the annual Governor’s Celebration of Innovation (GCOI) awards ceremony alongside other awards honoring Arizona’s top STEM students, technology companies and technology leaders.

General Rules

  1. Application requirements are published each year by the judging committee, along with specific rules for that year.
  2. An entry consists of a written response to the published questions, not to exceed four (4) pages, with specific formatting requirements, submitted by email as .doc or .pdf file attachments.
  3. An applicant must have taught for at least three consecutive years in Arizona, including the current year.
  4. Previous Honorable Mentions may apply with updated information; previous winners may submit an application on or after the fifth anniversary of having received the award.

The entry deadline for the year is determined by the judging committee and published with the official competition announcement; the committee may extend the deadline if deemed necessary.

The Awards

Besides the fame and notoriety of being selected as GCOI's Teacher of the Year, the successful candidate will:

  • receive a cash award,
  • be the subject of a video describing your teaching methods and philosophies,
  • receive complementary admission for four to GCOI, and
  • be asked to present a display board at GCOI describing your teaching style.

Up to two Honorable Mentions may also be awarded, and each will:

  • receive a cash award,
  • receive complementary admission for four to GCOI, and
  • be asked to present a display board at GCOI describing your teaching style.

Besides the AzTOY and the top students honored for FIOY, GCOI hosts displays by Arizona's most innovative business leaders. It is a good opportunity to see and be seen by STEM professionals from across Arizona.

Competition Hosts

AzTOY is hosted by the Arizona Technology Council in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority. Financial sponsorship for 2020 AzTOY is provided by American Express. The award program is adjudicated by the Arizona Council of Scientific and Engineering Associations (ACESA) with the aid of local STEM professionals.

Published: about a year ago

The ACESA newsletter is published every now and then. To ensure privacy, the mailing list is administred by the MailChimp email service.

ACESA 2d-barcode