Cave Creek USD honors Spanish teacher Eric DeVore

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

When Sonoran Trails Middle School Spanish teacher Eric DeVore heard he was the Cave Creek Unified School District’s Teacher of the Year, he says his heart stopped for a second.

“I was totally shocked,” DeVore says. “We have a ceremony at the end of the year, and they show videos and messages from the kids. At the very end, they showed third place and then second place and I thought, ‘There’s no way they’re going to choose two Spanish teachers.’ Then they chose me.”

DeVore was awarded $3,000 and completed his application for the 2019 Arizona Educational Foundation’s Teacher of the year program. Also recognized were Kendra Frigard, third/fourth-grade teacher at Desert Willow Elementary and Doni Nasr, Spanish instructor at Cactus Shadows High School. Frigard and Nasr received $1,000.

“I’m totally so fortunate,” DeVore says. “I can’t believe it.”

A seven-year teacher, DeVore grew up in Northville, Michigan, and attended Eastern Michigan University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and linguistics. He moved on to ASU, where he studied secondary education.

DeVore says he feels teaching found him, instead of the other way around.

“I knew from a really young age I wanted to be a teacher because I liked school,” he says. “I knew, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to teach. I liked math because I understood it, but I could not explain it.

“I loved social studies. That was my favorite, but I never wanted to teach government or economics. I always wanted to learn a second language. My high school teacher inspired me to do Spanish.”

Social studies and learning a different language are similar, he says. Both are social, and sentence structure is almost mathematical.

“I never thought I was going to teach middle schoolers,” he says. “I was aways aiming to go to a high school. They let me choose which school when I was interviewed. I liked the program at the middle school.

“They’re at that age where they’re old enough where I can have a conversation with them, but they’re young enough to not being set in their ways. I like that.”

DeVore’s advice to his students is practical.

“Go out there and explore the world,” he says. “The world is not going to come to you. I’ve believed in that mentality for the longest time. That’s why teaching a foreign language became my niche.

“The philosophy goes hand in hand—especially these days. Culturally, I think the United States is the melting pot of the world. That indirectly tells people to come to us and speak our language, view the world on our terms. The rest of the world doesn’t do that. I’m really even more passionate about my job now that these kids need to learn about life. It’s not always at your fingertips.”

DeVore sees the biggest occupational challenges as outside of the classroom.

“Everybody’s been a student at one point or another,” he says. “Everybody has that appreciation for the teacher. It’s more than an eight-hour job, when you’re planning for the next day. A lot of people say, ‘Oh you have summers off.’ It’s not that simple. There are a lot of challenges but being in the classroom is the favorite part of my job.”

Sonoran Trails Middle School Principal Bill Dolezal says he’s proud of DeVore.

“He represents everything right in education,” Dolezal says. “He is not only passionate about his content, Spanish, but even more so about his students. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious and he goes out of his way to help students reach their potential.”

Up next for the 34-year-old DeVore is his Ph.D. in linguistics, but he’s unsure about how he’ll balance his Ph.D., his dissertation and his teaching job.

“I’m very fascinated about how people speak their own language,” he says. “That’s what I teach in my classroom. I like analyzing how and why we speak the way we do.”  

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