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Academics - June 2024
School’s Not Really Out for Summer, Alice Cooper …
SUSD Summer Learning Is in Full Swing!

As May 24th marked the end of the 2023-2024 school year, students celebrated their promotions to the next grade levels and a total of 1,880 SUSD seniors proudly graduated from their high schools. Now, as June arrives, summer programming takes center stage for students across elementary, middle, and high schools. Additionally, the District’s annual Summer Professional Development Institute is underway for SUSD teachers and staff.

Summer Learning Opportunities for Students

SUSD offers a diverse range of summer learning experiences. While some programs are invitation-only, such as reading and math-based initiatives like Boost, LEAP-ELD, Gifted Enrichment, and 21st Century programs for elementary-aged students, there’s also a Summer Bridge math program available for middle school students and incoming 9th graders. These programs, led by dedicated SUSD teachers, aim to keep students actively engaged in learning, ensuring they are well-prepared for the upcoming school year.

Even if your child wasn’t invited to participate in one of these district programs, fear not! All students are encouraged to explore independent learning opportunities through the Summer Enrichment platform that’s accessible via the district homepage. Whether you’re in Arizona or traveling the world this summer, this site is your gateway to continued learning.

SUSD Summer Professional Development Institute

Our annual SUSD Summer PD Institute is back! From May 28th to June 4th, this exciting event is taking place at Mohave Middle School. Inspired by the spirit of the summer Olympics, the 2024 Summer PD Institute theme is “Summer Olympics: Minds Wide Open.” With more than 60 sessions covering a variety of topics, this institute provides SUSD administrators, teachers, and staff the chance to plan ahead for the 2024-2025 school year. Participants are also learning innovative practices to enhance student learning.

Academics - May 2024
Scorpion Handwriting Champs

Anasazi Elementary students were winners again this year in the state-level Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Contest.  Congratulations to 3rd grader Wyatt Marias, 4th grader Ezra Duffey-Aleem, and last year’s 4th grade national champion, now 5th grader, Braedyn Fehl!

DM Robotics Owns ASU Event

EPICS is a design-based service learning and social entrepreneurship program that incorporates the engineering- and human-centered design processes to provide solutions to real-world problems. High school teams comprised of students already interested in STEM fields, as well as those outside of engineering, combine their creative skills to design and implement solutions that have the potential to impact their communities.  The worlds of engineering and service learning are powerful!

Near the end of each school year, ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Colleges of Engineering host the EPICS High Showcase, at which high school teams exhibit the projects they’ve been working on all year and celebrate their success and impact on the communities around them. Industry and sponsor partners, faculty and staff evaluate students on their ‘pitch’ and top teams receive awards for their efforts.

This year, five teams of Desert Mountain High School students advanced to the EPICS finals, with our Wolves capturing victories in every category!  In so doing, Desert Mountain defended its state title, with its “Super Sorter” stealing the show.  The students’ solution to make it effortless for people to differentiate between recyclable and non-recyclable items won the competition’s Innovation Award and 1st place.

Not to be outdone, Team ECO-Breath captured 2nd place with its groundbreaking eco-friendly air purifier. Collaborating with SUSD’s Building Services Director Dennis Roehler, the team devised a system that harnesses the power of plants and solar energy, revolutionizing the concept of indoor air purification.

And the accolades didn't stop there: Team EZ Packer's ingenious EZ Packer box, designed to facilitate efficient travel for foster kids, earned a well-deserved 3rd place.

Other awards were bestowed, too!

  • Social Entrepreneurship Award:  Team EZ Packer
  • People’s Choice Award:  Excellence in Engineering Award: Team Eco- Breath
  • Excellence In Engineering:  Team Eco- Breath
  • Community Impact Award:  Team OSP
  • Video Award:  1st Place - Team OSP
  • Epic Design Poster Awards:
  • 1st Place - Leila Burka, senior
  • 2nd place - Vincent Song, senior
  • 3rd place - Valza Rizvanolli, sophomore
  • Epic Design Process Poster Awards:
  • 1st Place  - Logan Comer, senior, and Quinn Comer, freshman
  • 2nd Place - Valza Rizvanolli, sophomore

Congratulations, Desert Mountain EPICS teams and mentor/sponsor Michelle Okun, for putting your school and SUSD on the map again in these worthy pursuits!

Redefining Futures 

Eight engineering-minded Scottsdale Math & Science Academy students attended a “STEM-tastic” day last month at Collins Aerospace, a local manufacturer of aircraft emergency evacuation systems.

The annual event is geared toward recruiting women into that industry. Even cooler, Saguaro Class of 2019 grad and former Sabercat Robotics Design Lead Julia Greteman was one of the “Breaking Barriers in STEM” presenters!

Speaking of Sabercat Robotics...

The Saguaro High School Robotics team was one of 600 teams from around the nation and world to take part in last month’s FIRST Championship in Houston, squaring off in 10 matches in their 75-team division.

While the team flew to the tournament, their robot got there via FedEx and their tools were driven to H-Town by a parent mentor.  It takes a village!

It’s Scholarship Season

We know how hard our high school students work each year, and we are so grateful to be able to offer them many opportunities and environments in which to succeed.  What they accomplish from there is a credit to them!  It is always wonderful to see others also recognize SUSD students’ achievements and passion for learning. 

Please congratulate the following members of the Class of 2024 for receiving some pretty amazing scholarships that will help enable them to pursue their dreams at the university level!

Adelina Grotenhuis, Desert Mountain HS:  QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship

Lauren Matz, Arcadia HS:  Northrop Grumman Corporate-Sponsored National Merit Scholarship

Jake Weiss, Saguaro HS:  Dr. Bart Kamen Memorial FIRST Scholarship

Chloe Greetis, Chaparral HS:  Flinn Foundation Scholarship

Johnathan Guevara, Coronado HS:  Phoenix Suns/Phoenix Mercury/Helios Foundations El Valle Puede Scholarship; Dorrance Scholarship

ACT Perfection

Congratulations to the following SUSD juniors who scored perfect 36s on their ACT tests this spring!

Arcadia HS:  Ari Schott
Chaparral HS:  Daniel Bucher, Luis Chiapetti, Ashley Fu, Raghav Gupta
Desert Mountain HS:  Maximilien Farkas, Charles Heron

We can’t wait to see what else the Class of 2025 does in the next year!

Academics - April 2024


Celestial Spectacle: The April 8th Solar Eclipse - A Rare Cosmic Dance

Mark your calendars, parents! On April 8, 2024, a celestial spectacle is set to unfold in the skies above Phoenix. The sun and the moon will engage in a partial solar eclipse. At 11:20 a.m., Phoenicians will experience the maximum coverage of the eclipse, with 70% of the sun’s surface covered by the moon.

Why Should Parents Be Excited?

This eclipse provides an excellent chance for parents to engage their children in scientific exploration. Encourage questions, spark curiosity, and explore the science behind this natural wonder.  Additionally, April 8th’s eclipse is a once-in-a-generation event. The next eclipse with a similar percentage of coverage to pass in the skies above Arizona won’t happen for another 20 years! It’s a cosmic gift for both young and old.

School Communication

Keep an eye out for communication from your child’s school. Schools across Scottsdale Unified School District are preparing for this event.

Additional Resources

For curious minds and eager learners, we recommend exploring these resources:

Mountain Lion Cubbies Take Mandarin Skills on the Road

Congratulations to Desert Canyon Elementary Mandarin Dual Language Immersion program fourth graders Brynne Tadano and Victoria Boyd, who secured third-place trophies in the recent CLTA-AZ Chinese Mandarin Speech Contest at Arizona State University! Six other remarkable DCES students took part in the competition, as well: Brooke Ritchie, Toska Rizvanolli, Charlotte Flegenheimer, Naomi Raine, Beckham White and Olivia Makelele. 

Behind these students’ excellent efforts is Mandarin teacher Huang Laoshi, who prepares them so well every day. Out of more than 200 initial entrants from 21 Arizona schools, only 69 advanced to the second round. Great job, Cubbies, great and small!

HS Robotics Season Wraps Up

As they say, it’s all done but the shoutin’! While most of us were enjoying spring break last month, 41 high school robotics teams hailing all the way from Taipei to Arizona descended on Chaparral High School for the penultimate FRC regional competition of the 2024 season. Thank you, Firebirds, for providing a great facility and amenities to the competitors!

At the Arizona Valley Regional, Saguaro Robotics received the Regional FIRST Impact Award.  Formerly known as the Chairman’s Award, it recognizes the team that best represents a model for other robotics teams to emulate and that best embodies the mission of FIRST, short for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, the global nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that helps prepare young people for the future through a suite of inclusive, team-based robotics programs for ages 4-18.  

The following week, the ‘bots moved down to Corona del Sol High School for the Arizona East Regional, where the Saguaro and Chaparral teams were joined by their Titan friends from Arcadia High School.  At that event, the Sabercats’ Noah Shoup learned that he is the recipient of the four-year, $20,000 Steve Sanghi Scholarship! Congratulations, Noah!

And to top it all off, the Saguaro team has qualified for the season-ending FIRST Championship event later this month in Houston. You show 'em how it's done, #4146!

New Innovation Grant Winners Announced

Congratulations to the newly named recipients of SUSD Innovation StartUp grant winners! Redfield Elementary School and Principal Amanda Rand have received a grant for their project called, “Bot-ify the Classroom: Enhancing Education Through Coding Bots.”

Echo Canyon School Principal Kat Hughes and teacher Kelley Tully successfully submitted an application for a project called “TechTinkerers: Junior Engineers' Workshop.”

With up to $10,000 awarded to each school, we look forward to Redfield and Echo Canyon bringing these innovative ideas to life and the creation of new, future-focused learning environments for their students!

Academics - March 2024

As we approach the upcoming state testing season, we want to remind all parents about the importance of these assessments in our students’ academic journey. We encourage you to connect with your child’s school to stay informed about the specific dates for these tests. Your child’s presence on testing days is crucial, as these assessments provide valuable insights into their academic progress and help us tailor our teaching strategies to better support student learning. Encourage your child to maintain their normal before- and after-school routines and emphasize the importance of putting forth their best effort.

Visit Khan Academy or create a free account in Kahoot for interactive ways to reinforce skills and concepts that your students have been learning this year! The Arizona Department of Education has practice resources available, too!

Let’s work together to make this testing season a successful one for our students. Thank you for your continued support and involvement in your child’s education.


DCES’s Mountain Lion Cubbies Take Their ROAR to a New Level
Desert Canyon Elementary School (DCES), the starting point for SUSD’s Mandarin Dual Language Immersion program, is now an Arizona Educational Foundation® (AEF) A+ School of Excellence® for the 2023-24 school year! The AEF made the big announcement Feb. 15.  The application process is a daunting one and involves a school’s entire community – staff, parents, students and community members – taking an introspective look into all school operations to identify successes and pinpoint areas for improvement. Regardless of the outcome, it is a valuable experience.


We are happy to report that the outcome in DCES’s case has resulted in its being named an A+ school for the next four years!  Congratulations, Principal Kim Mills, Assistant Principal Erin Scagnelli, and DCES teachers, staff and families!



She’s “The Real Thing”
Arcadia High School’s Gabriella (Gabbe) Nakai learned recently that she is a Coca-Cola Scholar, one of just 150 chosen from among all of this year’s high school graduating classes nationwide. Gabbe and her fellow Coke Scholars represent just 1/6th of 1% of the nearly 104,000 seniors who applied for the $20,000 scholarship. They were selected to receive the award for their exemplary leadership, service and academics, and for the positive role they play as change agents in their schools and communities.

While most of Gabbe’s journeys back east in recent years have been to the nation’s capital to be recognized for her representation of Native American youth, next month she will head to Atlanta, the soft drink company’s U.S. headquarters, to meet her fellow Coca-Cola Scholars and participate in a leadership development institute facilitated by past scholarship recipients.



Make That 19
Nineteen members of SUSD’s graduating Class of 2024 are Finalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship competition. 


Our finalists vying for the $2,500/year awards are:               

Beginning next month, and over the course of each month through July, winners will be announced. Corporate-Sponsored scholarships are first up, on April 24.  We wish you the best, SUSD Finalists!


Academics - February 2024

Last weekend, the University of Arizona’s Center for Recruitment and Retention hosted a free conference for teachers.  Part of the conference featured a Mathematics Educator Appreciation Day (MEAD), providing a variety of sessions for teachers to engage in professional learning.  Multiple teachers from SUSD attended and representatives from our district even led sessions!  

Opportunities like this bring new ideas and resources to our teachers.  As our partners in your child’s education, we would love to share some ways for you to bring math home.  

Math Card Games for Elementary: Here is a collection of interactive math games for each grade level that are engaging and can help students practice key concepts in a fun way.

1st grade
2nd grade
3rd grade
4th grade
5th grade

Digital Resource for review: Khan Academy is a useful online platform that offers a wide range of math resources for K-12 students. It includes interactive lessons, practice problems, and study materials.  Here is a parent direction sheet on how to access the platform. Khan Academy Parent Guide

Ways to Talk About Math with Teenagers: If you are looking for ways to have meaningful conversations about math with teenagers, this site has some sample questions of how to begin those chats to help foster a positive attitude towards math. 

Flinn Scholarship Finalist Trifecta

Chaparral senior Chloe Greetis and Saguaro seniors Nikhil Sethi and Jake Weiss are among three dozen students named this week by the Flinn Foundation as finalists in the organization’s annual Flinn Scholarship competition.  More than 1,000 Arizona high school seniors submitted applications last fall for a chance at the prestigious scholarship.  Virtual interviews with 80 semifinalists took place last week.  In-person interviews are set for March.  Saguaro was one of six Arizona high schools to have two or more Flinn finalists this year.

The Flinn Scholarship, valued at more than $130,000 per student, provides funding for tuition, housing, meals at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University or the University of Arizona in the fall and provides opportunities to study abroad.  The Flinn Scholars Class of 2024 will be announced in April.  Best of luck to our trio of outstanding SUSD student scholars!

Echo Canyon Roars at State Robotics Tourney
Team 59803, aka Echo Canyon School’s Roarbots, rolled out of the state’s First Lego League championships at ASU last month, proud recipients of a Breakthrough Award.  The tournament recognized the Roarbots for having made “significant progress in their confidence and capability” and understanding that “what they discover is more important than what they win.”  Congratulations to teacher-lead Kay King and her crew!  Read more about their accomplishment here.

Cocopah’s Blue team and Desert Canyon’s DC Voltz also brought their considerable technical robotics programming and construction skills to the ASU-hosted state tournament, following successful runs at they qualifying competition at Saguaro High School in December.  Good job, SUSD!

Speaking of robotics, click here to read about Arcadia High School’s new robotics lab.

STEAM’n Away
It was full STEAM ahead at Navajo Elementary School last week as students, parents and teachers celebrated the school’s annual STEAM Night.  Even little Buffaloes were engaged in the many STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities!  Saguaro High School’s Sisters in STEM team was there to pitch in and Sparky made the trek north, across the Salt River, to make a special guest appearance!

Read On!

Navajo’s third grade classes are also celebrating having made it to the next stage of the NCAA’s Road to the Final Four reading competition.  State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, will host the concluding rounds of this year’s NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in early April.

More than 200 Arizona elementary schools began the reading contest last fall.  Students have been logging their reading minutes and the school has been uploading its weekly totals.  The Buffalo third graders now move on to the next stage of the contest, along with 67 other schools, in a new reading challenge that began this week.  They’ve won wristbands and buttons for their efforts so far and their teachers will receive commemorative tumblers.  Keep on reading! 

Overseas Visitors

Last month, Anasazi Elementary welcomed students from South Korea’s Benedem Education Seoul school for a collaborative learning experience. The two-week visit saw eight 1st through 5th grade Benedem students become part of Anasazi classrooms, learning about Arizona government, math, Spanish, and language arts alongside their new Scorpion classmates. Notably, Benedem Education of Seoul was founded by former SUSD teacher Jennifer Lee, highlighting SUSD’s enduring connections that transcend geographical boundaries. Anasazi takes great pride in being an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme school and promoting global perspectives and cultural exchange in education.

SUSD Spelling Bees
Twenty-four spellers.  Thirteen rounds.  Eighty-eight words.  In the end, it was 13-year-old Nina Bhatia who emerged as the champion of the January 19 Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Spelling Bee, spelling the word “indemnity” correctly.  She also was asked to spell such words as “megaron,” “coccidiosis” and “innards.”

How did the Cocopah Middle School eighth grade student prepare for the 2024 Bee?  “For the easier words, I usually just skimmed over them and made sure I practiced them,” said Bhatia.  “For the harder words, though, we had to kind of associate with the picture and also definitions.  It took a really long time for the hard words,” she added.

Bhatia shared that she doesn’t plan to change her approach for the Region II Spelling Bee that SUSD will host at Coronado High School on February 9.  There, she will be joined by the district Bee’s five runners-up:

  • Gabriel Roxas, fifth grade, Hohokam Elementary School
  • Dhruv Bansal, sixth grade, Desert Canyon Middle School
  • Raquel Charlesworth, eighth grade, Mountainside Middle School
  • Jak Boudi, fifth grade, Hopi Elementary School
  • Promise Elhassan, fourth grade, Yavapai Elementary School

Take a look at the cute video of our 2024 Bee here!

Bee winners from the Cave Creek, Deer Valley and Paradise Valley Unified School districts, as well as northeast Valley charter, private and homeschools, will also participate in the regional Bee.  Its winner will head to the March 16 Arizona Spelling Bee at the Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix.  The state bee champion will be Arizona’s representative in the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee which will be held May 26 – June 1 in National Harbor, Maryland.

A day earlier, SUSD conducted its second middle school Spanish Spelling Bee.  Eighth graders swept the top three spots.  Echo Canyon School’s Adrián Fernando Alvarado Padilla out-spelled 16 other students, winning with the word “embarazoso.”  Cocopah Middle School’s Matias Lagos Pucllas finished in second place; Ingleside Middle School’s Angel Gomez finished third.

Read more at The SUSD Source