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Arizona Teachers Academy a statewide plan to fight the shortage of educators

ASU to offer scholarship, mentoring support, professional development to those who commit to teaching in Title I schools

Gov. Doug Ducey speaks to elementary students onstage
September 26, 2017

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

Arizona State University is offering a scholarship as part of a new statewide plan to boost the number of teachers in Arizona’s K-12 classrooms.

The Arizona Teachers Academy was officially announced today as the response to Gov. Doug Ducey’s call for the state’s public universities to help ease the critical teacher shortage in the state. A May 2017 reportThe report found that the percentage was higher for charter schools — 52 percent. Also, median pay for elementary teachers in Arizona has dropped by 11 percent since 2001 and, when adjusted for statewide cost-of-living, is the lowest in the nation. by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU found that 42 percent of Arizona teachers hired in 2013 left the profession within three years. 

The program, in which the universities cover tuition and fees for future teachers who agree to work in public schools in Arizona, started this fall with about 200 students statewide, 81 of them at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. The goal is to expand the scholarships to 730 students at all three universities in five years.

“Teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a noble public service,” Ducey said at the kickoff press conference held today at Tres Rios Service Academy, a K-8 school in Tolleson.

“It’s one that should not only be recognized, it’s one that should and must be rewarded.”

Ducey said that the teacher shortage is affecting states nationwide and noted that Arizona voters passed Proposition 123 to pump $3.5 billion into education.  

But new teachers might spend years paying off their student-loan debt — a challenge that can push them out of the profession, he said. In his State of the State address in January, he called on the universities to launch the Arizona Teachers Academy.

“This new academy will train the next generation of Arizona teachers willing to make the commitment to Arizona’s kids,” Ducey said at Tuesday's event.

“And if they make that commitment, we’ll make this commitment: Your education will be paid for. A job will be waiting. And you will be free of debt.”

ASU will cover tuition and fees for every year that a teacher candidate commits to teaching in a Title I schoolTitle I schools have higher percentages of low-income students. after graduating.

A man stands at a lectern.

Arizona Teachers Academy student Jose Alberto Valadez Mata, from ASU, speaks at the launch of the Arizona Teachers Academy on Tuesday at the Tres Rios Service Academy in Tolleson. Valadez, who has known he wanted to be a teacher since he was a child, is a student teacher in a fifth-grade class at Wildflower Elementary School in the Avondale School District. Until he got the scholarship this past summer, he also was working at a pizza restaurant. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

One of ASU’s Arizona Teachers Academy students is Jose Alberto Valadez Mata, who grew up in Avondale with five siblings and parents who immigrated from Mexico. At the press conference, he described how the program will help him.

“Since I was about 12 years old, I would spend eight hours in school, come home and go back out at night to clean yards and lay concrete with my dad,” said Valadez, who was the first person in his family to graduate from high school.

“I remembered that the biggest influences in my life outside of my family were teachers — teachers who told me that there is nothing in this world you can’t be if you want it enough.

“That’s when I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I found my answer at ASU.”

Valadez now is a student teacher in a fifth-grade class at Wildflower Elementary School in the Avondale School District. Until he got the scholarship this past summer, he also was working at a pizza restaurant.

“The academy’s scholarship is alleviating the need for me to work five days a week while going to school and allows me to focus on my students,” said Valadez, who will graduate next year with a bachelor’s in elementary education.

“I look forward to the time when I can design my own classroom curriculum that links video games to education — taking something fun and making it a part of learning.”

ASU, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona each will have its own version of the academy. NAU will expand its “Grow Your Own” partnerships and UofA’s program will be tailored for career changers and those who already have bachelor’s degrees in other fields.

At ASU, academy students are meeting for workshops and seminars in which they’ll collaborate in designing solutions to issues that arise in the classroom. Academy graduates also will receive mentoring support and professional development while in their Title I schools.

Carole Basile, dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, said the teachers’ academy at ASU will work on putting creativity back into education.

“How do we create the next generation of educators who are not just in a single classroom but can start to be creative about who the people are, how we distribute expertise and how we build teams around kids so we do a better job in terms of what a teacher is?”

Through its iTeachAZ initiative and other academic programs, ASU already has partnerships with more than 30 K-12 school districts and 600 public, charter and private schools and will use that network to recruit candidates, create design labs and deploy a new workforce of educators.

A class of third-graders from Tres Rios sat at the front of the gym during the press conference, and ASU President Michael M. Crow noted that when they grow up, their working lives will stretch to the mid-2070s.

“Everything we’ve known in the past about what the economy might be and how it might move forward is subject to dramatic change as the economy continues to accelerate and new technology comes into the market and changes the nature of work and how we educate,” he said.

“It’s a good day to move things forward and continue the process of innovating the way ASU produces teachers.”

Top photo: Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at the launch of the Arizona Teachers Academy at the Tres Rios Service Academy in Tolleson on Tuesday, sharing the stage with a class of third-graders. Ducey set a challenge during his State of the State address in January for the state's three public universities to come up with a plan to address the current teacher shortage. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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