By John Hernandez
Julie Formo, kindergarten teacher at the Mammoth STEM School, was named Teacher of the Year at the Southern Arizona Region Science and Engineering Fair (SARSEF). The Teacher of the Year award is given to the instructor that has done the most to integrate science, math and engineering into their class curricula.
“It is a great honor to receive the award” Formo said. “I was so excited when I found out.”
The SARSEF Fair was held on Mar. 11 to 16 in Tucson, where over 200 schools participated. This is the second year in a row that Mammoth Elementary STEM School has garnered the Teacher of the Year award, as Laura Faulkenberry was the recipient last year. In the past two years, 18 students from the STEM school have won awards for their projects, and they are only going into second grade next year.
Formo grew up in Aravaipa and graduated from Ray High School, and she is proud to be a Bearcat. She was a good athlete in high school and had athletic scholarship opportunities after graduating.
Her life path changed and she got married and raised a family. After her kids were older, she decided to go back to school. “I didn’t get on a computer until I was forty,” she said.
Formo attended Central Arizona College at the Aravaipa Campus where she graduated and also got her degree from Northern Arizona University. She is an alumna of Phi Theta Kappa, which keeps her in contact with Maren Wilson, one of her former professors and the Phi Theta Kappa advisor at CAC.
“Julie has really stimulated a lot of interest in science in Mammoth,” Wilson said. “She’s planting a lot of good seeds.”
Formo gave a lot of credit for her success to her instructors at CAC. Flint Anderson told her to stay in the area and give back to the community. She said that Linda Leigh and Nicholas Yensen taught her a lot.
Her math mentors were the Cardells, Doug and Shay. She worked as Shay Cardell’s work study, who had the Learning Community at the college where all the instruction was project oriented.
“I had the best teachers. They imparted all their knowledge into us,” Formo said. “I learned STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) at the college level. It made teaching STEM at the kindergarten level easy.”
Formo’s first teaching job was in Tucson at a charter school. She chose the school because all the students had computers at their desk. She got tired of the commute and when she saw online there was an opening in Mammoth for a kindergarten teacher, she applied for the job, where she was hired that same day.
She has been teaching for the Mammoth-San Manuel School District for six years, two years as a STEM teacher. She has also taught the past four years at Central Arizona College’s “College for Kids” program.
“I am a teacher at heart” she said. “I love teaching kindergarten and first grade. I can teach them to think. I can teach all the fundamentals that they can build on. Our School is doing well. The kids try so hard and give it their all.”
Formo and Faulkenberry, along with four of their students, attended a dinner at the TEP building. The kids were chosen by drawing their names from a hat. Julie took Mia Gutierrez and Johnny Smallhouse, Laura took McKenzie Yubeta and Jose Cervantes. The kids had to present the project and answer questions from the sponsors and scientists. Julie then received the Teacher of the Year award.