TOLLESON – Jose Valadez thought he’d never be able to have “the really nice things,” like a college education.
Now, he’s a college senior, learning to be a teacher.
“I wanted to give back to the community that raised me,” Valadez said.
Much of his education is free as part of the newly launched Arizona Teachers Academy, which provides free tuition and fees at the state’s three public universities for every year they stay in Arizona to teach.
“If they make that commitment, we’ll make this commitment,” Gov. Doug Ducey said as he discussed the program this week at Tres Rios Service Academy, an elementary school in Tolleson. “Your education will be paid for, a job will be waiting and you will be free of debt.”
The academy, launched to recruit teachers in an ongoing shortage and because of problems in retaining teachers, has more than 200 students this fall and is expected to grow to more than 700 within five years, according to the Arizona Board of Regents.
The three universities – Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University – will have their own version of the academy.
NAU will expand its teacher-development partnerships with local schools and community colleges, U of A will focus on students who want to change careers to teaching and ASU offers a design lab and partnerships as part of the academy, according to the regents.
“Graduates of the Arizona Teachers Academy at ASU will benefit from networked mentoring support during their first year of teaching,” ASU president Michael Crow said in a statement. “We partner with more than 30 K-12 school districts and 600 public, charter and private schools, and will leverage these partnerships to recruit candidates, create design labs and deploy a new workforce of educators.”
Valadez, who is now a student teacher, said the scholarship means he doesn’t have to work five days a week and allows him to focus more on his students.
Maria Harper-Marinick, chancellor for the Maricopa County Community College District, said those who teach affect generations.
“I can name every single one of my teachers since pre-K all the way through high school,” Harper-Marinick said. “I think all of us know the importance of having great teachers in the classroom. I always say we already have that, we just need more of them.”