TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — For the last six years, generations of students have passed through Ernesto Somoza's classroom at Pueblo High School.
"It it now so rewarding to be able to teach the siblings of previous students and see my students grow into adults themselves," Somoza said.
He started teaching in 2013 as a long-term substitute until he realized the need for educators in the area.
"I would go into some of the classes I subbed in and they had never had a real teacher in that class," he said. "I realized I needed to stop subbing for random social studies and science classes and find a position teaching something I went to school for which was fine arts with a focus on photography, video and installation art."
His passion for teaching led him to win Raytheon Leaders in Education award. The award is given to teachers that demonstrate excellence in leadership and support for their students and peers.
He said this is something he was not expecting.
"I just couldn’t believe it when I first got the award because out of all the teachers here in Tucson there are just so many amazing teachers in Tucson," he said. "And I just couldn’t believe that I was selected for this year's award."
From graphic and web design to cycling, Somoza makes connections with his students and help them learn in different ways.
David Rojas is a senior at Pueblo High School who is a part of Somoza's dual enrollment graphic design class and the cycling club. He said he's really proud of his teacher.
"He’s really supportive and enthusiastic with how he teaches and what he teaches," Rojas said. "He puts things in his class that make students success and they see more than just the computer."
The award came with a monetary prize that allowed Somoza to purchase a t-shirt press for the classroom. This helped both the graphic design students and the school's many clubs bring their t-shirt designs to life.
“Within even the first week of us getting the press, we had students from across the school saying we need t-shirts for this event or this club, we heard you got a press," Somoza said.
Somoza said the award gave him a boost of confidence and comfort knowing that there is support for teachers.
"It's really cool to think that people actually do support us as teachers," he said. "This job is so rewarding and I am blessed that I am able to make an impact with my students every single day I go to work."