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The need for strong teachers has never been greater, but the pathway to becoming a teacher doesn't have to be the same for everyone.

Whitney Brandon teaches second grade at Westar Elementary School, but she has taken a different path than some of her peers. “So when I started the year (2019) I was a stay-at-home mom, the year my daughter started kindergarten. I got my sub certificate looking for something to do. I liked the flexibility of being able to do it when I could,” said Brandon.

But that was just the first chapter in her journey. “Turned out, the third week of school, one of our first grade teachers needed to take a long term leave. And I was friends with one of the other first grade teachers, so she volunteered me to come in and I was there for six weeks.”

But at that point, she felt a connection with the kids that she couldn't imagine leaving. “I knew with a sub certificate, the kids couldn't really be mine. So once we got shut down with COVID, I had actually heard an ad on the radio. It was about the Arizona Teachers Academy. So I looked into that and found out they would actually pay for my entire master's degree, which I had wanted to pursue since I was young anyways,” said Brandon.

The program pairs up with Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. The latter is the school Brandon chose. She is currently finishing up a master’s degree for free, so she will be certified to teach long term. Brandon says it’s the kids that continually draw her back to the classroom.

“I mean, that's why you come every day, that's what brings us back. Even on the worst day, there's a kid to give you a hug goodbye, you know, or be excited to see you tomorrow. So that's very easily why I do it.”

Whether it's straight from a four-year degree program, or choosing another pathway, the Liberty Elementary School District can be a home for you too if you’re looking to start your teaching career. 

“If you have ever wanted to do it, I think the Arizona Teachers Academy is something that you absolutely should look into. I mean, how many times can you get a free master’s? You know, that's a $17,000 per semester commitment that the state is making. And all I owe them back is years of service. So they'll pay for two years of my master’s. I give them back two years in a classroom, which you know, I have no desire to go anywhere anytime soon. So that'll be easy,” said Brandon, who firmly believes our kids need good teachers now more than ever. 

“If I'm not going to do it, and they can't fill this classroom, what happens to those kids?” 

If you’re interested in pursuing a pathway like Brandon’s, which included first guest teaching in our district, please contact our Human Resources Department. You can also find more information about the Arizona Teachers Academy HERE.