Future educators graduating from the University of Arizona are excited to inspire the next generation


Brianna Golden

Education majors at the University of Arizona are required to complete 60 unpaid hours of field experience in K-8 public schools, which makes it difficult to get a job and leads to financial stress. However, despite the challenges, education majors are excited to inspire the next generation. 

Tereza Rascon

As the spring 2023 semester comes to a close, the University of Arizona’s College of Education graduating seniors prepare to enter to the workforce in their chosen field of study and reflect back on their time in the department.

Ashley Taoka, an elementary education student with a bilingual endorsement in Spanish, will be teaching kindergarten in the Marana Unified School District at Estes Elementary.

Becoming a teacher has been something that Taoka has always wanted to do. She chose to study at the UA due to the Bilingual Elementary Education Program to study Spanish along with elementary education.

The bilingual education program is something Dean Robert Q. Berry III, the newest dean of the College of Education, takes great pride in.

“[It] is almost exclusively taught in Spanish, which then provides an opportunity for our bilingual education program to meet the needs of the vast array of students in our community,” Berry said. “Our students [get] to be certified bilingual educators and elementary educators. […] It is a significant impact and serving the broader community as well.”

He also takes great pride in the Indigenous Teacher Education Program, for students who are involved in this program (who usually come from an Indigenous community) can use the knowledge gained to give back to these communities.

“The language is being used to Indigenize teacher ED, and it honors these communities [and …] their perspectives that may not be in a [traditional] teaching ED program that are required for the Indigenous communities, that we have to know and understand and respect,” Berry said.

For the first two years, education students take the typical pre-requisite and foundational courses but are also expected to complete 60 unpaid hours of field experience in a K-8 public school, which requires an Arizona IVP Fingerprint Card.

After a student completes these requirements, they then can apply for professional admission in the spring and, if accepted, they will go on to complete courses related to the professional program.

Letty Molina-Gutierrez, a senior academic advisor within the College of Education, explained how the program, while trying to maintain that college experience, tries to get students in the classroom as much as possible in order for them to see if this profession is truly something they’d like to pursue.

“We require the 60 hours because [students] think, ‘I’ve been in school. I know what a teacher does. I’ve been to classes.’ But when you go in and look at it with a different lens, that’s the teacher and you’re sitting there observing, some students come out of that observation experience and say ‘you know what, it’s not really what I thought I wanted to do,’” Molina-Gutierrez said.

While Taoka had lots of positive things to say about the program, she did mention how there is room for improvement.

Because of how the program is structured — with students spending a huge chunk of the day at schools from Monday through Thursday — it is especially demanding, leaving almost no room for students to have a part-time job.

“A lot of people, they come home from student teaching, change, eat dinner and then go work at like a bar or as a waitress at night, things like night time jobs and weekend jobs,” Taoka said.

However, Taoka said Berry has really been listening to the concerns of the students this semester and has made efforts to help these struggles.

“[The Dean] has made some accommodations to help people who just really couldn’t sustain it, such as giving us the opportunity to have scheduled work days,” she said. “He also made us aware of some work-study programs […] like tutoring and things that are less labor intensive,” Taoka said.

The College of Education also offers various financial resources for students in the undergraduate program to take advantage of.

Anthony Espericueta, a graduate student pursuing a master’s in teaching & teacher education, is a part of the Teach Arizona Program, an accelerated master’s program at the UA.

Espericueta is currently a student teacher at Desert View High School and has hopes of becoming a social studies teacher upon the completion of his program.

He has always wanted to be a teacher since he was in high school. He chose to study at the UA due to his pride in the Tucson community and exposure to the UA from collaborations with his alma mater, the Sunnyside Unified School District.

Since he initially didn’t go through the College of Education undergraduate teachers program, he gained teaching experience from special education at a small private school. He heard about the Teach Arizona Program through his old government teacher who was involved in this program.

“The Teach Arizona Program offered […] everything that a future educator needs to be certified and get ready for a career in education,” Espericueta said. “My experience with the College of Education and the Teach Arizona Program has been a wonderful experience.”

Espericueta also receives financial support from the Arizona Teachers Academy, which funded the American Government Civics Exam he needed to pass in order to be certified to teach government.

He also mentioned how the College of Education has been especially supportive, for he recently agreed to take on his mentor and old government teacher’s classes full-time due to the teacher needing to take a leave of absence.

Advice he has for future student teachers is that during internships they should fully immerse themselves in the school, such as participating in community events, attending pep assemblies and fundraising events.

When asked about his feelings about entering a field that has seen a rise in school shootings, while he said at the end of the day, he feels someone has to be there for the students.

“We still need teachers. We need individuals who are passionate and determined to really make a difference,” Espericueta said. “Despite the concerns that there [are] in getting into the field of education, what’s really driving me is wanting to inspire future generations […] they’re going to be the ones who are leading this world.”

Follow Tereza Rascon on Twitter