New director guides Sanford Inspire Program to prepare great teachers

Ryen Borden

Ryen Borden is the new executive director of ASU’s Sanford Inspire Program, an initiative of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Under Borden’s leadership, the Sanford program will continue its partnership with Teach For America to attract, prepare, support and retain highly effective teachers from pre-kindergarten through high school.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford invested more than $18 million in Teachers College to transform the way teachers are prepared. The Sanford Inspire Program was launched in 2010 and has contributed to major changes in ASU’s teacher-preparation curriculum that have attracted national attention.

“Ryen possesses the combination of knowledge, experience and team-building skills needed to guide the Sanford Inspire Program as it continues to build a model for teacher recruitment, preparation, support and retention that is both sustainable and replicable,” said Mari Koerner, dean of Teachers College.

After completing her undergraduate studies at Cornell University, Borden moved to Phoenix where she taught for 10 years in the Murphy School District. During this time she completed her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and her principal certificate. For the last two years, Borden has been a member of the Sanford Inspire Program and has worked to support the new teacher preparation curriculum, iTeachAZ. She also has served Teachers College as the course coordinator for undergraduate field experience courses and the co-coordinator of the elementary and special education dual certification program.

“The goal of the Sanford Inspire Program is to combine the best practices of Teachers College and Teach For America to design a teacher training program that ensures each child gets the highly prepared teacher he or she deserves,” Borden says. “We are focused on inspiring people to see teaching as a high-impact profession, preparing teacher candidates to be instructional leaders who inspire students to achieve at high levels, and providing resources and innovative learning experiences to support educators in continuously increasing their effectiveness.”

Sanford Inspire Program leaders collaborated to build iTeachAZ, which features a senior year residency program. ASU teacher candidates complete a full year of student teaching and take coursework designed to enhance their clinical experience and develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to be highly effective. The curriculum also features a greater emphasis on academic content knowledge among teacher candidates. This program has been recognized nationally, with universities from around the country visiting to learn more about iTeachAZ.

Teachers College efforts to encourage high school graduates to pursue teaching careers have been boosted by the Sanford Inspire Program. The program assessed the career aspirations of 1,200 Arizona high school juniors and seniors to build a baseline of data from which to shape marketing efforts and ensure alignment between Teachers College programs and the aspirations and expectations of the future teachers the college aims to attract.

Through efforts including adaptation of Teach For America’s recruiting strategies, Teachers College has made measurable progress in recruiting larger numbers and percentages of freshmen who are academically ready for college, who are committed to teaching math and science, and who reflect the diversity of the PreK-12 public school system in Arizona.

The Sanford Inspire Program continues to develop its measurement and evaluation efforts to help study and replicate the model. Faculty researchers supported by the program have presented at prestigious conferences including the American Education Research Association conference and Society for Information Technology and Teacher Evaluation.

“To maximize our collective impact, the Sanford Inspire Program also collaborates with other groups within Teachers College, such as the Center for Games and Impact, the Collaborative Research and Evaluation Office and the Office of Student Services,” Borden says. “These partnerships enable all efforts of the program to be embedded within the college and support the sustainability of its work.”

ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College offers challenging education programs that prepare highly qualified and successful teachers, leaders, and researchers. Teachers College serves all four ASU campuses in metropolitan Phoenix and students across Arizona, and is one of the nation’s largest producers of new PreK-12 teachers.