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Graduate geared up to bring out the best in his middle school students

Justin Greathouse
December 17, 2012

Justin Greathouse sees the potential that his seventh- and eighth-grade students possess, even if they may attend a Title One school in Avondale where many students come from an impoverished background.

Working with the iTeachAZ program for the past two years as he completes his elementary education certification and graduates this December, Greathouse encourages these middle school children to explore their full potential by explaining the benefits of education and ways they can address the educational achievement gap by working hard and earning good grades.

“We have frank conversations about the achievement gap and how we can close it by working hard and improving their grades. After having this conversation, most of them have become more motivated to learn. You can literally see the wheels turning in their heads,” Greathouse said. “I’m determined to get them to succeed.”

Students aren’t just hearing this from someone without experience. Greathouse is a product of Title One schools and the first person to graduate from college in his family. He earned his bachelor’s degree and went into a career as a retail manager, but decided to go back to school to earn his elementary education certificate at ASU after talking to people in the teacher preparation program who spoke very highly of it.  

“They would explain to me what they were doing. I thought, ‘this is a program that is clearly preparing them to be in a classroom.’ I really felt that this was quality education,” he said. “I knew we spent two years in the teacher preparation program with a 30 week internship and more than 1,000 hours inside the classroom.”

All of the theories about what comprises good teaching can be thoroughly researched, but until someone sees it in action and how a teacher responds to student success and failure, they haven’t truly experienced teaching, Greathouse said.

“You have to see them and experience them,” he added. “The iTeachAZ program delivers on so many levels.” iTeachAZ is the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College groundbreaking immersion program that provides intensive student teaching experiences and the opportunity to work with a mentor teacher.

Greathouse will put his teaching skills to work for student success after graduation when he starts his new job at Countryside Elementary School in Dysart.

Recognizing the potential in students through academics also translates to sports. Greathouse observed during his iTeachAZ experience how students at his school came together to play flag football with kids from different groups and boys and girls alike. He also saw leadership skills emerge through the game that he hadn’t seen in the classroom.

When he questioned administrators about the sport and why his school didn’t have a program, they said that funding was the primary issue. Greathouse worked to secure funds from local organizations and businesses for start-up costs, helped get the issue before the Avondale Board of Education and now the school is in its first flag football season.

“The board unanimously approved it. We started football a few weeks later,” he said.

Students who play have a definite stake in the bargain since they have to keep their grades up and not have any discipline issues.

“The kids that we wanted to affect the most are some of the ones who made the team. They want to redo assignments and they literally ask you, ‘Was I good today in class?’ It ended up being a very positive thing for the district,” Greathouse said.