Two seasoned educators who spent years as teaching colleagues in Nogales have found new homes on the staff at Patagonia Public Schools. Cynthia Colbert, who teaches 2nd grade and gifted education, and Scott Connuck, the new music teacher, are both very happy to have joined such a warm and welcoming faculty who, they say, shows its caring and creativity every day.

Cynthia Colbert enjoys working with second graders at Patagonia Elementary School. Photo by Robert Gay

Cynthia Colbert

Colbert was a music and elementary classroom teacher, then a gifted teacher, for years in the San Diego area when, in 2005, she came to southeastern Arizona, seeking new adventure in her life. “My kids were out of the house and a friend suggested I might like southeast Arizona. I came to Nogales to check it out, interviewed, and was hired on the spot,” she said.

“I grew up in a family of educators,” Colbert said. “My mom was a teacher, my two sisters are teachers, as is my brother-in-law. It’s in my blood.”

After years teaching in Nogales and the Little Red Schoolhouse, she began helping with the gifted program in Patagonia last spring. A graduate of the University of La Verne, she holds certifications in K-8 Education, teaching English as a second language and gifted education.

“My experience with giftedness began with understanding my son, who was gifted. The principal of the school where I taught suggested I might excel at teaching those students, and I took part in a certification program the district offered. And I did click with the students and the curriculum. I have always approached the world in a quirky way, so I relate. And I have found wonderful strategies, from logic puzzles to algebra to working with idioms, to challenge kids. I think it’s so important for gifted children to learn the ways their brains process differently, and to value those differences throughout their lives.”

Ms. Colbert enjoys working with second graders “because they are young enough to still be in awe and wonder about the world and all they can learn about it, but old enough to start to realize that everything is not fair. This makes them very interesting people.”

New music teacher Scott Connuck finds Patagonia students “respectful and eager to learn.” Photo by Robert Gay

Scott Connuck

Scott Connuck moves from classroom to classroom with his cart of musical instruments, including a keyboard, and xylophones for the children to play.

“While theory and music appreciation are important, music is mainly a hands-on activity,” he said. “The most challenging part has been getting the Contemporary Band program to coalesce, as the kids are not all on campus at the same time, due to hybrid learning. So, we’ve been studying jazz and the Harlem Renaissance; it’s amazing how many wonderful Youtube resources there are to expose kids to live music. Soon I hope we will all be able to play together. In the meantime, we are being innovative.”

Connuck admires the collaborative leadership styles of Superintendent/Principal Kenny Hayes and Assistant Principal Michael Young. “They are incredibly supportive, and the entire staff has risen to the challenge of these times by finding new ways to connect with and teach their students. Teachers and administrators here stress good manners, and I find Patagonia kids to be very respectful and eager to learn. And I know I always try to do my best. I believe attitude is everything, and I think it rubs off on everyone you meet during the day.”

Connuck graduated from the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, where he remembers playing in juried recitals twice each semester. Known as ‘P.A.,’ the school was made famous by the movie “Fame” and its many well-known alumni, including violinist Pinchas Zukerman and actors Liza Minelli and Robert DeNiro.

“My experience in New York City gave me the highest respect for the melting pot of society that public education helps to foster. Its role in our country is unmatched,” he said.

Connuck holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in guitar performance, a postgraduate certificate in music education and a master’s degree in educational leadership.