Avondale high school teacher wins Gaydos and Chad’s teacher tribute
Nov 23, 2022, 8:00 PM | Updated: Dec 15, 2022, 10:30 am
PHOENIX — A West Valley school teacher was named KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad Show’s Pay Tribute to a Teacher winner for October, presented by Your Valley Toyota Dealers.
Sydni Ward teaches 12th grade at West Point High School in Avondale. Her determination to empower students prompted one letter writer to suggest her for the $2,500 prize.
Ward has been teaching for eight years and has connected with many of her students over the years. The memories of one student toward the start of her career in Virginia will carry on throughout her life.
After some time of being challenged by a student named Demonte, the pair developed a new communication skill — Ward began to ask him to write her letters that she would reply to.
“In these letters, he would talk to me about how he was doing these things outside of school that nobody would know about, like he was in this gang… and he couldn’t ever openly talk about it using his voice, but he would always put it in a letter,” Ward said.
Demonte was shot and killed the next summer, she said.
“I was 23 years old, didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t even know how to process that grief,” Ward said.
“I say I have all of these letters from this child that I look back on every year as I prepare myself to get into the next school year because there are so many things that you never know that is going on in these other kids’ worlds and he is a prime example of that.”
Demonte changed her career drastically, she said.
“These letters spoke for themselves. They talked about his dreams and the things that he hoped to do, some type of legacy that he would leave behind, just the little things that you just didn’t have the chance to hear him say out loud, you know?” Ward explained.
Demonte’s legacy will continue to live on through her reward, which she intends to put toward providing Valley students expanded education.
Ward said she plans to use the money to purchase books her students would never get the chance to read otherwise.