Patagonia Public School Special Education Director Ann Gortarez was praised recently as an outstanding teacher. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Submitted by Patagonia Public Schools

Ann Gortarez, Patagonia School Director of Special Education teacher, was recognized by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman in her Feb. 9, 2021 ‘State of Special Education’ presentation.

“Patagonia Public Schools’ special education director and teacher Ann Gortarez embraced the opportunity to reimagine their Room 409 resource room into an online support center for all students in special education and their families,” Hoffman said. “The virtual Room 409 is open from dusk to dawn, five days a week, allowing students and families to receive help with classwork or homework at any time. Using flexible scheduling, Ms. Gortarez and her staff regularly join general education virtual sessions to support their students, which they follow up with secondary lessons and guided practice in Room 409.

“Beyond providing the normalcy typically found in the Room 409 classroom, Ms. Gortarez and her team have provided a virtual environment where students are thriving. Students’ skills in learning how and when to use online supports like assistive technology have accelerated in this new environment. And the students’ boosted confidence in using these tools will stay with them when returning to in-person learning.

“Imagine if we provided all public schools the resources to expand on their successes. Imagine if all schools had the means to hire a full range of special education staff instead of having education professionals take on multiple roles. Imagine if all families had access to reliable, affordable internet, allowing them to access not just their learning but a range of professional and social activities.

“Imagine if all students in special education had access to a fully staffed and fully resourced Room 409.”

“Ann Gortarez is a truly great asset to not only Patagonia Public Schools, but also to the Patagonia community,” said Patagonia School Superintendent Kenny Hayes. “She goes far beyond doing her job and does everything that she can to help all students at Patagonia Public Schools. Ms. Gortarez knows when students need support and what supports those students need. Her support staff also is well trained and very supportive to our students at Patagonia Public Schools. This shows her eye for talent, and ability to put individuals in the right situation.”