Julie Beyer and Amy Nies both teach at Manzanita Elementary School, but in opposite corners of Arizona.
Beyer is in her 21st year of teaching and her 11th year as a preschool teacher in Kingman.
Nies teaches an exceptional first-grade class in Tucson.
The educators have one other thing in common: Both are winners of 2003 Special Education Director's Institute Awards from the state Department of Education.
"It's a new award started this year and just three people got it," Beyer said.
That put Beyer and Nies in select company with Atlantis Russ, special education director at Kestrel High School in Prescott and the third award recipient.
Beyer learned of her award in a phone call Oct.
8 from Miriam Podrazik, coordinator, comprehensive system of personal development with the Department of Education.
Beyer received a plaque Oct.
17 at a reception at the Hilton Mesa Hotel from Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction.
"(Beyer) was thrilled when I called her," Podrazik said.
"She was very touched that someone took the time to nominate her and that she was being recognized for all the work she has done on behalf of kids."
Beyer's award is for her work with community service agencies and programs such as Early Childhood and Head Start, which help children make the transition to pre-school.
The award that went to Beyer celebrates an individual or school that has furthered special education in research, publishing, higher education, instruction or vocational program design, Podrazik said.
A three-member committee considered seven nominees.
"Julie has done a tremendous amount of coordinating with community-based programs to bring resources to her kids," Podrazik said.
"She also is installing a new playground for preschool students, which takes community involvement, and got her early childhood program licensed and accredited, which heightens the level of instruction offered to students."
Nies' award is for her impact on classroom learning techniques, which have improved pupil achievement and skill acquisition, Podrazik said.
Russ' award is for leadership.
It recognizes a school or individual who has improved curriculum, professional development or program design, Podrazik said.
Carole Hartle nominated Beyer for the award.
Hartle was director of special education for kindergarten through sixth grades when she left Kingman Unified School District in June 2002 to become education program specialist in Flagstaff for the Exceptional Student Services Department in the Department of Education.
"Julie is an outstanding teacher who exhibited her organizational and leadership skills in creating the preschool (for KUSD)," Hartle said.
"They now have four teachers and eight sections.
"You must get accreditation (for preschool), something that normally takes two years.
She got it done in seven months, and the accreditation organization out of Georgia wanted to use Julie as a role model for people all over the country."