Thank you Roger and good morning, everyone.
Today is a very exciting day for public education in Arizona and I’m pleased to be joined at Tres Rios Service Academy by:
Dr. Michael Crow of Arizona State University,
Dr. Rita Cheng of Northern Arizona University,
Dr. Bobby Robbins of University of Arizona AND; Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick of Maricopa Community Colleges
I’m especially pleased to be in the company of our Teacher Academy students and to hear about their journeys into the teaching profession:
Jose Gonzales from ASU;
Xaviera Moore from NAU; and
Charisse White from U of A
Principal Grose, thank you so much to you and the team here at Tres Rios Service Academy for hosting us today.
It’s fitting that this special announcement is being made in the Littleton Elementary School District, because this district is very unique in its own right.
This is one of only a handful of districts in Arizona with no attendance boundaries for any of its schools. They are open to all families.
And on top of that, even if a student is not living close to the school of their choice, the district provides transportation to every child.
I want to commend you for your willingness to be innovative in a way that will make a real impact in the lives of your students, and for being a leader in school choice.
I’ve been to schools all over our state. Urban. Rural. Large. Small.
But no matter the school, or the neighborhood, or the circumstances, there’s one constant: Arizona has exceptional teachers.
These teachers are bringing passion and purpose to their jobs every day. I’ve seen it.
Teachers who light up their students’ eyes with excitement about learning.
Teachers who take extraordinary interest and go out of their way to help a student who might be facing extra challenges at school or at home.
Teachers who bring learning to life with new creative approaches that spark energy in their students.
They help shape our children’s lives in countless ways; and in doing so, teachers shape the future of our state.
It’s no wonder we all remember those teachers who had an impact on our lives. For me, it was Mr. Zammit, Mr. Wagner. Doc Demar, Professor Olney, and Sister Patrice.
That’s why teaching isn’t just a job; it’s a noble public service. And it’s one that we should not only recognize – it’s one that we should, and must, reward.
While we have many high-quality and dedicated teachers in the classroom today, the fact is, Arizona faces a serious teacher shortage. It’s not a problem that is unique to our state – it’s a national problem.
But in Arizona, we are working to address it.
Through Prop 123 and our teacher pay package, we have and will continue to work to drive up teacher pay.
We’ve reformed our certification process to take the model that’s worked so well with attracting new math and science teachers and expand it, allowing content matter experts to get to the front of the classroom and share their skills as teachers.
But we also know that student loan debt is an added challenge for many new teachers.
Doctors, lawyers, businesspeople – many will make six figures within a few years of graduation.
But for teachers, paying off the debt from their education can take decades. In some cases, it might push them out of the profession altogether. That is unacceptable.
In my State of The State address in January, I called on our public universities and community colleges to design a plan for an Arizona Teachers’ Academy that would attract the best and brightest to teach in our classrooms.
They’ve delivered. And today, I’m proud to announce that the Arizona Teachers’ Academy has arrived!
This new Academy will train the next generation of Arizona teachers willing to make a commitment to Arizona kids.
And if they make that commitment – we are prepared to make this commitment: their education will be paid for, a job will be waiting, and they will be free of debt.
This program is designed to fit the needs of our schools today, and of the prospective teachers entering our university programs.
It includes multiple program offerings that allow individuals to participate at any point in their educational career from freshmen to returning professionals.
Our goal is to recruit the best and brightest students who are committed to high standards, service to others and have a drive to deliver the highest-quality education.
And when it comes to recruiting, training and mentoring future teachers, graduates of the Academy will play an important role.
If you take a look in the bleachers behind me, you’ll see that the work of our Academy trainees has already begun. These are the very first young people being taught by two Academy trainees, right here at Tres Rios.
And as the Academy grows and sends more excellent teachers to the head of our classrooms, countless young people like them will be given greater opportunity at a brighter future.
With our three Universities fully engaged in this effort, we intend to grow the pool of teacher talent in this state. And, were off to a great start.
I’m pleased to report that we have an inaugural class at the Arizona Teachers’ Academy of 200 exceptional men and women.
This is a real game changer for Arizona’s schools and our kids - and I want to say a big thank you again to everyone involved for all the hard work that made today possible.
Before we move on, I want to acknowledge a special guest here today. Because I can’t take full credit for this idea.
In 2014, during the campaign for governor, Fred DuVal, presented this very concept at our debate in Tucson. I remember leaving, and saying – “What a great idea. Whatever happens – this is something that needs to be brought to life.”
The fact is – no political party has a monopoly on good ideas, especially when it comes to education. It was Fred’s good idea that ignited this effort and brought us here today.
Fred – thank you for your energy and advocacy for public education.
This is an Academy that we want to continue to build and to scale year-by-year. And this is only the beginning of what is truly possible.
It’s truly inspiring to hear these personal stories of dedicated individuals for whom teaching is not a job, but a calling.
Any state in the country would be fortunate to have teachers like Jose, Xaviera, and Charisse in their classrooms.
And with the Arizona Teachers’ Academy, we’ll be blessed with many more like them.
Thank you all once again for joining us today and God Bless.