John J. Ross Memorial Award for Excellence in Law-Related Education

This award recognizes exceptional contributions of Arizona educators in furthering understanding of the role of the law in our democratic society. Nominations are due March 1st and are to include the individual's name; school; address & other contact information; the award for which they are being nominated and contact information of the nominators; a summary of their characteristics, experiences, and service that qualifies them for the award; and support letters from others may be included. The nomination should be sent to The Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, ATTN: Kevin S. Ruegg, 4201 N. 24th Street, Suite 210, Phoenix, AZ 85016. You may also email materials to

2017 Winners

Warren Burda
Sunnyside High School
Program: We the People, Project Citizen, Student Congress
Pima County

Mr. Burda uses a teaching method that shifts the cognitive load from the teacher to the students so they become self-organized and self-directed. Both he and the students have indicated that this style of learning is the reason they were as successful as they were in competition. The learning framework also allowed them to make major shifts when obstacles were present or corrections needed before and during competition. The relationships he builds creates a family of trust and taking risks. The students have said the time management, collaboration skills and civic knowledge they learn will carry them not only through college but into their careers and adulthood as well informed citizens. 

Completing his 3rd year at Sunnyside he has shifted the American Government course over to WTP programs to engage students in more civic minded problem solving, responsibilities and community outreach. He holds weekly student congress meetings where students discuss and vote on current state and national legislation currently on the docket as well as Supreme Court cases. All seniors in his class register to vote and work to ensure other students do the same. 

Dr. Mary Ellen Halvorson
Tri-City College Prep High School
Program: Mock Trial, CSI, Project Citizen, and Kids Voting
Yavapai County

Dr. Mary Halvorson is a Superintendent at Tri-City College Prep High School in Prescott.  She might be part of administration for the school, but she does not sit on the sidelines.  She believes in teaching Law-Related Education and since 2002 she has made sure her teachers understand the importance of having their students involved in Arizona Bar Foundation programs.  From Mock Trial, to CSI, to Project Citizen and Kids Voting, Mary is always in the arena with her teachers and students making sure they participate.   When a teacher had to leave a program, Mary stepped in and took over.  This year she has trained a new mock trial teacher and is in the process of training another to become involved in CSI.   She wants to make sure programs don’t just belong to teachers, but to the entire school community. 

Melinda Newman
Pan-American Charter School
Program: We the People
Maricopa County

Her classroom curriculum is highly engaging and serves an important impetus in achieving higher-order reasoning and discourse within our middle school students. I have been very impressed and enthused about our participation in We the People and thank Ms. Newman for bringing it to the school's attention.

Mandy Wright
Gilbert Classical Academy
Program:We the People
Maricopa County

Ms. Mandy Wright is an outstanding teacher of law-related education.  She attended the We the People Summer Institute 6 years ago and hasn’t stopped both in participating in the program and in further professional development through the LRE Academy.

She participates with her Gilbert Classical Academy students in both the regional and state level We the People competitions held each year. Her enthusiasm for law related education is evident in how they continually place well at the competition and how she shares her love of the We the People program with other teachers at her school.

2016 Winners

Officer Nathan Goetz
Santa Maria Middle School
Program: School Safety Program
Maricopa County

Officer Nathan Goetz, Santa Maria Middle School, Phoenix, has been working as the School Resource Officer for two years and has more than 400 hours of student, teacher and parent contact hours in Law-Related Education. His nomination states, “Officer Goetz is one more of the teachers in the school. He is seen as the teacher that helps students and adults to prevent situations that may cause us to get in trouble with the law.” Officer Goetz has reached out to partners in the community to include them as guest speakers for his LRE classes. The partners include CVS pharmacy (dangers of prescription drug abuse), Tumbleweed (safe haven), and Touchstone behavior (Shape lesson plan). He also brings in other officers from the Youth Alcohol Squad, K-9, and Community Action Officers for car seat installations. In addition, he leads an active WAKE UP program where youth are exposed to learning opportunities and community service projects. Officer Goetz’s involvement is extended to after school programs, weekend projects with students, and supporting the families of students.

Janice Koenig
Dysart High School
Program: Mock Trial, Teen Court
Maricopa County

Ms. Janice Koenig, a teacher at Dysart High School in Phoenix, not only participates each year with her students in the mock trial program, but also runs the Teen Court program. She has worked tirelessly over the past 12 years to build both programs at her school despite the economic challenges in her district.

She strives to keep up with current professional development options with both mock trial and teen court so has attended various LRE academies over the years.

In 2015 she raised the money necessary to make sure her teen court students were able to travel to Flagstaff and participate in the Youth Summit.

Brenda Lee
Prescott High School
Program: Mock Trial, Teen Court, We the People
Yavapai County

Ms. Brenda Lee, a teacher at Prescott High School, has participated over the past 12 years in LRE Academies, LRE Conferences, the mock trial program, the teen court program, and took over for the We The People teacher this past year, as he was out for medical reasons and couldn’t finish preparing the students for the regional competition. Not only did she help with the class, but she helped the events coordinator plan the regional competition at her school.

She believes in law related education and the impact it has on students so much that when she moved from Phoenix to Prescott she made sure to implement the programs in her new school!

Erika Sparlin
Coronado K-8 School
Program: ICIVICS
Pima County

Erika Sparlin, a teacher at Coronado K-8 School in Tucson, has been an enthusiastic participant of the Foundation’s LRE Programs since 2013.  Erika first began utilizing the iCivics Arizona Program with her students in 2013 and has continued to participate each year. She has been instrumental in moving the program forward by providing valuable feedback based on her implementation. Each year she encourages civic education in a manner that allows the students to have fun while learning. Erika seeks news ways to educate her youth by receiving professional development to enhance her content knowledge. She has recently began to utilize the We the People program and in her very first year of implementation, she is taking 4 of her classes to Washington D.C. so that her students can participate in the We the People National Invitational. This type of participation requires the teacher to fundraise in order to allow her students to attend. The cost per class is approximately $30,000. You can see that she is dedicated to her students and civic education.  Erika is willing to go above and beyond for her students. She consistently strives to give her students the best there is to offer.  


2015 Winners

Shari Anton
Shadow Mountain High School
Program: CSI

Anna Van Zile
Payson High School
Program: Mock Trial

Norma Jean M Higuera-Trask
Challenger Middle School
Program: We the People

Jenifer Meadows
Walker Butte K-8
Program: ICIVICS

2014 Winners

Becky Fitch Franklin Phonetic Primary School

Heather Matchett Lineweaver Elementary

Michael Dillon Metro Tech High School

Ofc. Matt Blech Bogle Junior High School

2013 Winners

Ellyssa Eiring Copper Basin

Dawn Burstyn-Meyers Salt River Elementary

Wiley Popovich Smith Junior High

Justina Powell Thunderbolt Middle School

2012 Winners

Bill Young - Mohave County Probation Department

Officer John Talley - Alhambra High School

Amy Price - Sonoran Heights Middle School

Terry Green - Blue Ridge High School

2011 Winners

Officer Shawn Benjamin - Canyon Del Oro High School

Jill Benza - Skyline High School

Jaime Festa-Daigle - Lake Havasu High School

Eric Miller - Joseph City Junior and Senior High School

2010 Winners

Elaine Potes - Centennial Middle School - Yuma

Felipe Navarro - Somerton Middle School - Somerton

Natalio Sabal - Douglas High School - Douglas

David Nach - Mountain Pointe High School - Phoenix

2009 Winners

Marc Crowley - Jess Schwartz College Prep - Phoenix

Mark Goligoski - Prescott High School  - Prescott

Nona Hanson - Benson Middle School - Benson

Charlene Roll - South Mountain High School - Phoenix

2008 Winners

George Colebrook - Landmark Middle School - Glendale

Lisa Flores - Cactus Middle School - Casa Grande

John Cosden - Xavier High School - Phoenix

Patrick McAndrew - University High School - Tucson

2007 Winners

Jim Maner - Capps Middle School - Heber

Jim Norman - Hamilton High School - Chandler

Past Winners

John Nitka - Palo Verde Magnet High School - Tucson
Rich Curtin - Palo Verde Middle School - Phoenix

Cheri Bludau- Tucson Unified School District - Tucson
Duane Phifer - Desert Sands Middle School - Phoenix
John Halverson - Desert Sands Middle School - Phoenix

Charlene Roll - South Mountain High School - Phoenix
Lisa Adams - Corona del Sol High School - Tempe
Lori Rodriguez - East Globe School - Globe
Phyllis Wolfskill/Cindy Pickett - Sinagua High School - Flagstaff

Patricia Downing, Crane Middle School, Yuma
Abby Dupke, Dobson High School, Mesa
Dave Franquero, Globe High School, Globe
Tim Smith, Corona del Sol High School, Tempe

Cathy Currier, Sahuaro High School (Tucson)
Michael Spears, Hamilton High School (Chandler)

Darla Johnson, Bradshaw Mountain High School
Arlie Hunt Anderson Junior High School, Chandler
Robin Andre, Shelly Baker and Georgia Davidson Mile High Middle School, Yavapai County

Tammy Waller - Mountain Ridge High School, Glendale

Julie McCall - Madison #1 Middle School, Phoenix
Nancy Haas - ASU West, Phoenix
Kathy Williams - Dobson High School, Mesa
Sarah Cromer - South Beaver Elementary, Flagstaff

Jody Arnold - Liberty Elementary School, Buckeye
Judy Cox - Thornydale Elementary School, Tucson
Marilyn Easton - Thornydale Elementary School, Tucson
Elnora Johnson - Blue Ridge School District, Lakeside
Janet Thor - Centennial Middle School, Phoenix

Katheryn Hedges - Deer Valley High School, Phoenix
Betsyann Wilson - Thornydale Elementary School, Tucson

Connie R. Boulton - Wilson Primary School, Phoenix

William Graham - Tempe High School, Tempe
W. Dorrean Walker - Prescott High School, Prescott

Mildred (dede) Havens - Buena High School, Sierra Vista
Mary Jo Hilpert - South Mountain High School, Phoenix
Mary Platt - St John's High School, St. Johns
George Thomson - Nogales High School, Nogales

Norma Jean Coulter - Madison #1 School, Phoenix
Paula Olson - Esperanza School, Tucson

Darlene Speaker - Creighton Middle School, Phoenix
Lorene Ely - South Mountain High School, Phoenix
Ron Trent - Amphitheater High School, Tucson
Elnora Johnson - Blue Ridge Junior High School, Lakeside

Tom Foster - Mountain View High School, Mesa
Kathy Hedges - Deer Valley High School, Phoenix
Winifred McAter - Flowing Wells High School, Tucson
George Thomson - Nogales High School, Nogales

Richard C. Brown - South Mountain High School, Phoenix
Augie Zito - Paradise Valley High School, Phoenix
Towne Bishop - Rincon High School, Tucson
John Yanez - Miami High School, Miami