By Kevin Salazar
Pueblo High School’s very own Mr. Ernesto Somoza, who teaches graphic design and sponsors numerous clubs, has been named Raytheon’s Teacher of the Year, among the dozens of applicants from many high schools in the Tucson area.
After being nominated in August by Pueblo colleague, economics teacher Ms. Mary Wallace, Somoza endured several levels of eligibility—and in the end, received the call that informed him that he was one of three teachers who would receive a $5,000 grant.
Somoza said, “I was eventually notified that I was a finalist, which made me really happy.” He paused and added, “Then, I had to be at my best during a Zoom interview—competing against other finalists.”
He added, “I almost missed the phone call the next day that informed me that I was the recipient of the award. I kept ignoring a call during first period because I didn’t recognize the call number and name. But, luckily, I eventually answered my phone a few times later and learned of my award.”
This is not Somoza’s first time at being honored by local organizations. He has been recognized by the TUSD media, Tucson Values Teachers and by the University of Arizona.
“Being recognized for what I do at Pueblo is truly elating,” Somoza said. “My job is challenging, although I’ve never looked at it as a job because it’s too much fun.” He paused and added, “All teachers work hard to inspire their students and to prepare them for the future. I wish I could share this award with everybody.”
Besides dedicating his school day as a graphic teacher for the past six years, Somoza also sponsors/teachers the Bicycle Club, the Hiking Club and also volunteers his time for various other projects, including district and community leaders.
“Our [Pueblo] students need to compete with others across the city,” Somoza said, “and this grant money will help me afford the equipment necessary to expedite this process.”
Somoza and his students recently began to design and create T-shirts for various Pueblo clubs after purchasing equipment necessary for such a venture.
“There’s so much more I need in my classroom to compete with other high schools’ graphic design programs,” Somoza said, “but I feel confident that we’re on our way. I want Pueblo to be the district and community leader in this field.”
Somoza is currently applying for another grant award that would help him achieve this status. He encourages other educators to apply for grants in their subject matter because “they’re out there.” These grants, he asserts, will make positive changes in students’ learning.
“I see how engaged students are when they’re learning graphic design with state of the art equipment,” said Somoza, “This enthusiasm and engagement really does change their perspectives and turns otherwise disinterested students into individuals who truly want to learn and share their knowledge with others. This contagion is absolutely amazing to observe.”
Ms. Mary Wallace, who nominated Somoza for this award, said, “Ernie [Somoza] is the most amazing STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] teacher I have ever met! He helps everybody selflessly with his knowledge of technology.”
With a future full of new adventures and new projects, Somoza shares his happiness for what he does for a living.
“What I do [at Pueblo] just happens to award me a paycheck every two weeks,” he said. “The real reward is preparing students for success and instilling them with the kind of knowledge with which they can graduate and use forever.”