The Arizona Teacher Fellows Program launched in 2017 in partnership with the Arizona K12 Center, whose mission is to improve teaching and learning in Arizona’s schools through high-quality professional development and teacher leadership. The AZ K12 Center’s Associate Director of Programs Angelia Ebner leads the first class of AZ Teacher Fellows.
Representing one to 30 years in education, these exceptional teachers and instructional coaches will generate feedback from their peers, networking with and offering teacher-led solutions to decision-makers at multiple levels of policy and practice.
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Arizona State Teacher Fellows
Misti Andrews earned her Master’s in Education Administration from the University of Scranton and is now an instructional coach at Paradise Honors High School in Surprise, AZ. In the classroom, Misti has primarily taught middle school mathematics. She started her teaching career in Morenci, AZ. During her time in education, Misti has been a new teacher induction and mentor coordinator, a grade level lead, a CST coordinator, an interim administrator, a member of an NCA accreditation committee, a varsity volleyball and track coach, as well as a trainer for AZDOE for several years. She hopes that the support given to teachers will allow them to be the most effective versions of themselves. This will then trickle down to our students, whose achievements, are the priority.
Ms. Aidan Balt has a B.A. in Secondary English Education from the University of Sioux Falls and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from NAU. She is pursuing National Board Certification in Adolescent and Young Adult English Language Arts and is an Arizona Master Teacher. In addition to being a teacher, she is a Beginning Teacher Mentor, a Department Chair and the Gifted and Talented Liaison. She has taught grades 9-12, typical, honors and advanced and is currently teaching 12th grade Advanced Placement Literature and English 1 Honors. This is her eighth year as a teacher at MHS. Before becoming a teacher, Aidan worked for Volunteers of America, Dakotas and brought her years of experience in working with youths of diverse backgrounds, including young refugees, into her role as a classroom teacher.
Amy earned an M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University, B.S. Marketing, B.S. Business Process Management and an M.Ed. in Gifted Education from Arizona State University. Amy Casaldi has spent the past ten years working in public education, K-12 and higher education, with eight of those years spent in the Gilbert Public Schools district. As a 5th grade teacher at Islands Elementary, she is passionate about student relationships and engagement. She shows that passion by bringing the outside world into the classroom. Amy is a member of the Arizona State Science Standards Committee and serves on district math and science curriculum committees. She was awarded the Teacher of the Year Award from her school and a scholarship from Engineering is Elementary.
Susan is a National Board Certified teacher beginning her second year in Kingman Unified School District. She has spent most of her 24 years in music education in Mississippi, where she spearheaded the Carnegie Hall Link Up program. In Tupelo Public School District, she served as the elementary music focus group coordinator and conducted an after school elementary choir that regularly produced participants for the state honor choir. She owned and operated a successful early childhood music studio for 8 years receiving the “Program of Distinction” for her work with young children. On the state level, she served as elementary workshop site coordinator for the northern district, state elementary treasurer for Mississippi Music Educators Association and presented numerous workshops on teaching music for early childhood and Pre-kindergarten students. Susan received a Bachelor’s of Music Education and Masters of Music Education from Delta State University, Cleveland, MS. While at Delta State, she served as an officer in the Music Honor Society of Mu Phi Epsilon, was a member of Pi Kappa Delta academic honor society and graduated with high academic honors. As a graduate student, she served a double assistantship to the director of bands and graduated with high academic honors.
Audra Damron is heading into her eighth year of teaching and currently starting her sixth year as a preschool teacher at a Quality First 5-Star rated program at Desert Oasis Elementary School in Tolleson Elementary School District in Phoenix, Arizona. She attended the Baltimore Teach to Lead Summit and received the Teacher Impact Grant in 2016 for working toward meaningful home school collaborations. She received the Rodel Exemplary Teacher of Early Childhood Award in 2014 and is a National Board Certified Teacher candidate. Audra earned her Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education from Bowling Green State University in Ohio in 2010.
Teaching was a post-baccalaureate program for Siobhan. She realized her passion for teaching when her son began pre-school. It was amazing how much a 4-year-old could do if he was shown the way. She realized how rewarding a career in education would be and immediately began the post-baccalaureate program to become a teacher. She has spent her 6-year teaching career at Vesey Elementary in the Tucson Unified School District and will begin a new position with the district of teacher mentor this year. She earned her Masters in Educational Leadership in 2014 from Northern Arizona University and went back again to NAU and earned her principal certificate in May 2017.
Louise Durant has been teaching since she was 13 years old when she became an assistant gymnastics coach. This rewarding early experience led her to seek out teaching and leadership positions in all subsequent areas of her life. She is currently entering her fourth year of teaching kindergarten in Williams, AZ. She loves the tremendous impact one can make in a small, rural-school setting. Louise is always excited to seek out new challenges and possibilities that extend her as an educator and a community leader; she recently coordinated brand-new literacy and STEAM events at her school which brought students, families and community members together.
Joy Hallett completed her first year as a first grade ELD teacher at David Crockett Elementary School within the Balsz School District in June of 2017. Joy is genuinely passionate and dedicated to her students that she teaches in an urban environment. Joy recently participated as a new teacher on a panel at Northern Arizona University’s education conference, There’s A Reason I’m A Teacher (TARIAT). Joy earned her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education with a certification in Early Childhood from Northern Arizona University. She is currently exploring opportunities to earn her master’s degree.
Stephanie Hayes has worked in Amphitheater Public Schools in Tucson, Arizona for 16 years. She has been a kindergarten through third grade classroom teacher and an English language learner specialist. She is currently a reading interventionist at Donaldson Elementary working with kindergarten through fifth grade students. Stephanie has a bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology with a master’s degree in Multicultural/Bilingual Education, both from Northern Arizona University. Stephanie is National Board Certified in Early/Middle Childhood Literacy and Language Arts. She is a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant coordinator, active on her school leadership team and supports national board candidates with the Arizona K-12 Center. Stephanie was a national winner of the Honeywell/National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Got 2B Safe! award in 2010.
Bradley R. Jamison, Ed. D. works at Castro Middle School in the Cartwright Elementary School District teaching 7/8th Grade Language Arts. Dr. Jamison has been in education for the past 19 years and has had various roles such as: teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal, principal and university adjunct professor. He has earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University, a Master’s degree from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He has earned teaching awards at the University of Phoenix and is a current member of Phi Gamma Sigma, a research fraternity.
Dr. Jess Ledbetter is a National Board Certified Teacher with twelve years teaching experience in Arizona. She is proud to teach Developmental Preschool at Mountain Shadows Elementary in Deer Valley School District. Additionally, she enjoys blogging on Stories from School AZ and LeadfromINtheClassroom.com. Dr. Ledbetter attended Arizona State University, earning a B.A.E. in Special Education, a B.M. in Music Therapy, a Masters in Early Childhood Curriculum and Instruction and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Innovation. She was named as the Matt O’Hanhila Inspirational Educator in 2011 and Teacher of the Year in 2011 at Melvin E. Sine Elementary in Glendale, Arizona.
Cheryl has spent her career in the Dysart Unified School District. She currently teaches English at Willow Canyon High School. Previously, she spent 16 years teaching general and special education at West Point Elementary. She is also an educational technology mentor. Furthermore, Cheryl is the President of the Doctoral Community Cohort and an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University. Additionally, she produces a monthly podcast for the NEA. She was named a National Dream Team Teacher in 2014 and 2015. Cheryl is a National Board Certified Teacher, an Arizona teacher of the year nominee and was named Dysart Hero in 2015.
Becky has spent the last three years of her career teaching grades 4 and 5 at Esmond Station K-8 in the Vail School District. Prior to her time in Vail, she spent 12 years teaching for Sierra Vista Unified School District in 2nd and 4th grade. Becky’s passion for teaching and learning are always the focal point in all that she does. She calls herself a “lifelong classroom teacher” and knows that there is nothing else she’d rather do. She is a National Board Certified Teacher in the area of Early and Middle Childhood Literacy: Reading-Language Arts and currently serves as a member of the AZ NBCT Board of Directors. In 2010, Becky traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept the National Blue Ribbon Award of Excellence on behalf of her school, Pueblo del Sol Elementary. She was the 2013 award recipient of Sierra Vista Public Schools’ Special Project of the Year. Becky earned a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University and a Master’s in Reading and Literacy from Walden University.
Joshua Meibos has a Master’s Degree in Physical Education from Arizona State University and has been teaching physical education at Crockett Elementary in the Balsz School District for six years. Throughout those years, he has advocated for better health and wellness for his students and their communities by teaming up with colleagues and local leaders. Together they received the 2015-2016 Alliance for Healthier Generation Bronze Award and recognition from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Active Schools National Award in 2015. Josh was chosen as Arizona Cardinals MVP in the Classroom in 2012, as well as the 2016 Balsz District Champion. Josh is a member of the 2016-2017 Arizona K12 Teacher Solution Team, Skate After School Board Member. He has also participated in programs and events alongside the NFL Play 60, Phoenix Children’s Hospital Kid Rock Star, American Heart Association, UNICEF Kid Power, PGA First Tee, Skate After School and Athletes for Hope.
August Merz III, aka Sandy, teaches sixth, seventh and eighth grade math and science. He is currently the math curriculum lead at Safford K8 School, Tucson Unified School District, in downtown Tucson. Sandy has just finished his 3oth year teaching at Safford and is a Nation Board Certified Teacher. He contributes to many teacher leader networks, such as the Arizona K12 Center and the Center for Teaching Quality. In 2016, he was named a Raytheon Leader in Education. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of New Mexico in 1979 and a Master of Science in hydrogeology from the University of Arizona in 1985.
Originally from Indiana, Alistair Mountz moved to Arizona in 2000 and began teaching high school. His education career began with the American Indian Reservation Project at Indiana University. This trained him specifically to teach on the Navajo Nation. Following his first teaching job in Tuba City, he moved to Many Farms High School where for over 10 years he taught ELA. He has been actively involved as ELA department chair and on the school improvement team. He has coached varsity basketball and advised the award-winning student newspaper. He currently lives in Casa Grande, Arizona and is an Instructional Coach with Casa Grande Union High School District.
Karla has been a teacher for 20 years. She taught in the Glendale School District and Mesa Public Schools. In 2004, she was the recipient of the Chicanos Por La Causa Esperanza Award. Karla has worked for Chandler Unified School District for ten years. She is a member of the Chandler Education Association and was part of the Super Q Committee which is comprised of administrators, certified and classified personnel as a part of the bargaining process for contracts and benefits. Karla earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Arizona State University and a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix.
Anthony is a Phoenix native and has spent his last four of seven-year career at Sunset Elementary in the Cartwright School District. His passion for students receiving a high-quality education in urban settings drives the work that he does, both in and out of the classroom. He is a member of the Grand Canyon University College of Education Advisory Consortium, Arizona Science Teachers Association, Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education and Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity. Anthony was awarded the Rookie Teacher of the Year award in 2012. In 2016, he was awarded national scholarships by the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute and Engineering is Elementary, as well as the Superintendent’s Award of Excellence. Mr. Pérez earned a bachelor’s from Arizona State University in 2004 and a Master’s from Grand Canyon University in 2011. He is currently pursuing his Early Childhood Generalist certificate from The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Kristin Roberts is passionate about empowering all students to grow their potential and providing them with opportunities to excel in public schools. She currently teaches 9th grade English at Carl Hayden Community High School in the Phoenix Union High School District and she spent the previous eight years teaching middle school language arts at Mountain View School in the Washington Elementary School District. Kristin is a National Board Certified Teacher with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cedarville University (Cedarville, Ohio) and teaching credentials in secondary English education from Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan).
Dr. Petra Schmid-Riggins has taught at the high school level for the past 13 years. She has worked as a reading specialist, inclusion teacher, AVID and AIMS teacher and advocates for and teaching a diverse student population. Previously, she taught K-8 for three years. She is a member of Phi Delta Kappa and Phi Lambda Theta honor society, CEC, ASCD, and NEA and the author of The Impact in Secondary Education: Student and Teacher Perspectives about Intentional Collaboration. An advocate of public education and teacher leadership with a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Petra acknowledges the inherent difficulties that arise when decisions on education are made by individuals with minimal knowledge or experience in the field. She completed the NEA Teacher Leadership Institute and collaboratively composed a report influencing education policy which was shared with the NEA Accountability Task Force and disseminated at NEA-RA. As a panelist, she promoted teacher voice at the Network for Public Education (NPE) Conference in Chicago. She has worked on several projects with NEA to assure that decisions are made by educators for educators and to support teachers new to the profession. She serves on the AEA Social Justice Task Force, AZ ASCD Advocacy Committee and as CTA Secretary. Through AEA and NPE, she works on campaigns to thwart any attempts to privatize schools and to adequately fund and democratically-govern public schools. As English Second Language speaker, she represents a vast number of students and she believes empowering educators leads to empowering students.
Sarah has been teaching for nine years in the Balsz School District. She has taught kindergarten, 1st and 3rd grade. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in Special Education from Grand Canyon University. Currently, she is a mentor coach in her district and works with new teachers to develop their craft. She is pursuing National Board Certification as an Early Childhood Generalist and is President of her local association, as well as a member of NEA’s Teacher Leadership Institute Cohort. While being a teacher leader is an important goal for her, her true passion lies with being an accomplished teacher who can provide a quality education for her students.
Sarah has been teaching for the past five years at Landmark School in the Glendale Elementary School District. During her time at Landmark, she has taught as a middle school special education teacher in the self-contained social emotional classroom. However, this upcoming year she will teach 7th and 8th grade reading. Sarah participates on the school’s Culture of Achievement Committee as well as the district’s Teacher Evaluation Committee. Most recently, Sarah graduated with her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership through the iLeadAZ program through Arizona State University. Sarah, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Education from Hope College in Holland, MI.
Yolanda has taught for the past 7 years in the Phoenix Elementary School District. Her passion for developing and supporting the human potential is evident in the cross-curricular work done in her classroom. She is a member of the Association Montessori International and is a RODEL Scholar. Yolanda earned a bachelor’s in Psychology from The Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.), a master’s in Social Work and a master’s in Education (Special Education) from Arizona State University and a diploma in Lower Elementary Education for ages 6-12 from the Montessori Institute of North Texas.
Nicole has spent her 16 year career working with diverse K-8 students, as well as instructing at the University level. Her dedication to teacher advocacy and support led her to become an Instructional Coach in 2013. She has called Avondale Elementary School District home for three years. She has spent her career actively involved in instructional improvement, chairing many committees including Response to Intervention, Academic Accountability and Professional Development Committees. Nicole was named Dysart Hero (teacher of the year) in 2012. Nicole earned a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Education/ESL from Ottawa University. She is also endorsed as an Early Childhood Specialist, Reading Specialist and Gifted Specialist.
Cheryl teaches English at Lake Havasu High School. She has been with the Lake Havasu Unified School District for 12 and a half years, where she has taught Resource, 8th grade ELA and several grade levels of high school English. Cheryl is actively involved in the extracurricular activities at her school. She is a Nation Board Certified Teacher, Sophomore Lead teacher, cheer coach, pep club advisor, Operation Smile advisor and HOSA co-advisor. Cheryl earned her BA in Sociology, with an emphasis in juveniles, from California State University, Dominguez Hills.
Tammy currently teaches at Window Rock High School. She has been an educator for 32 years in Arizona and New Mexico. She has also worked with various tribal education entities as an educational specialist in an effort to implement systemic education reform in science, math and technology. She continues to stay involved with the Navajo Nation as lead evaluator for AdvancED – NCA Office. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Secondary Education, a double master in Bilingual/Multicultural Education for Policy and Administration from Arizona State University. Tammy is currently working on her National Board Certification in Early Adolescent Science.