Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Teacher in Residence Win-win for Teachers, School Districts

Last year, elementary teacher Jessica Hahn could really relate to her students—she was going to school herself.

A college English major, Hahn didn’t decide she wanted to teach until after she had graduated from college. An innovative program at Rio Salado College, called Teacher in Residence (TIR), allows college graduates to earn their teaching degree while they teach.

Hahn moved from St. Louis three years ago to Phoenix where she was able to immediately start teaching using an intern certificate.

Approved by the Arizona Department of Education, Rio Salado’s Teacher in Residence program allows students who currently possess a bachelor’s degree in a non-related education area to receive employment in a classroom while simultaneously completing their education coursework for certification.

By the time Hahn finished the TIR program last May, she already had two years of full-time teaching experience under her belt. She currently teaches first grade at Encanto Elementary School in Phoenix’s Osborn School District.

“This program gave me a chance to teach right away in an area that really needed teachers,” Hahn said.

Many people wanting to be teachers put off their schooling for fear of not having a salary during an unpaid student teaching assignment, said Jennifer Gresko, the director of the Teacher in Residence program for Rio Salado College.

Because students in the program are actually hired by a district as full-time teachers, they receive a first-year teaching salary and benefits while completing their certification.

“If you’re worried about losing pay to go back to school, this is the perfect option. You’re learning the theory at the same time as practice, so you can immediately apply it in the classroom,” Hahn said. “You also have a supervisor to help guide you.”

The TIR program features college supervisors, usually retired teachers or administrators, mentoring the beginning teachers in best practices in teaching and the management of daily classroom responsibilities.

Students must complete at least half of required program coursework by the end of their first year and be successful in their supervised student teaching. They must also renew their intern certificate to continue in the second year of the program.

Arizona schools are also benefiting from the program because they no longer need to wait for qualified candidates with a desire to teach to finish school before they can hire them.

“Districts are struggling to find candidates, especially in the areas of special education and high school math and science,” Gresko said. “When a district finds someone with a background and a four-year degree in one of those areas, they don’t want to miss the opportunity to hire them.”

Rio Salado TIR students work in 225 schools in more than 70 districts throughout Arizona.

The college’s online learning format makes going to school while teaching more manageable. It also makes certification possible for people living in remote or rural areas, Gresko said.

Teacher in Residence and other teacher preparation programs like it are helping to ease Arizona’s teaching shortage, said Rosemary Gaona, the director for transition to teaching programs for the Arizona Department of Education.

“The program started in 2005 and now we’re seeing the graduates complete the program and stay in those high-need schools. We’re finding it to be successful,” she said.

A student may only begin working in the program once they are recommended by a school district for full-time employment and have successfully passed the Arizona Education Proficiency Assessment in the content area for which they are being employed.

For more information, contact the Rio Salado College Teacher in Residence program at 480-517-8126 or visit

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Online Classes Good for Soldiers

Rio Salado helping military spouses

Last year Rio Salado College served more than 3,000 members of the military, including members of the United States Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard.

The students completed associate degrees, racked up certificates and completed general education requirements and prerequisites for medical programs all while serving their country.

A military-friendly Servicemembers Opportunity College, Rio Salado has been serving the military for nearly three decades, starting with educational opportunities at Luke Air Force Base.

“We want to provide our military access to education so they can reach their personal goals as well as their professional goals,” said Rick Kemp, associate dean at Rio Salado College.

Rio Salado course work is designed to prepare them to advance their career in the military as well as for life afterwards.

While he was deployed for a year in Afghanistan, Rio Salado graduate Mark Sussman earned an incredible 35 pre-med credits through the college’s online classes. He has now returned to the U.S. and has continued his education .

“I’ve encouraged any young soldier to take classes. With Rio’s partnership with GoArmyEd they have an excellent package. It’s a great way for a soldier to get ahead without the hassles of going to night school,” said Sussman.

While Rio Salado College has been educating military members serving around the world for years, they have also begun to focus on serving military spouses.

“We recognize the need for dual incomes and that the military paycheck is sometimes not enough to survive in the world today,” said Yvonne Lawrence, coordinator of military programs at Rio Salado College.

Rio Salado’s online course work allows spouses around the globe to earn college credit even though they maintain a very transitory life, Lawrence said.

The push to include military spouses in the government tuition assistance program is a national movement. The Department of Labor has recognized some careers are more portable. Several certificates and degrees are offered in those fields including health care, early childhood education and computer technology.

Rio Salado College is also at the top of the list for good deals.

According to the 2007 Department of Defense Voluntary Education Report, the national average for an online class is $540 per credit, while Rio Salado charges $65 per credit for residents and $159 for those out of state.

The bargain price means service members won’t have to pay any out of pocket costs, as well as stretching the impact of each military educational dollar. But it’s not just the $159 cost that attracts members of the military to Rio Salado College, said Kemp.

Rio Salado has a dedicated military advisement team. These advisors understand the needs and challenges of going to college while serving in the military.

“We recognize the nature of the profession. Our classes go with them anywhere, anytime,” said Kemp.

Rio Salado also offers credit for military training that has been approved by the American Council on Education. And best of all, Rio Salado offers entire degree programs online with start dates nearly every Monday.

Rio Salado College student Lee Vining has been deployed to Iraq for more than a year. Working on his associate degree, Vining hopes to advance his military career and become an officer by completing his baccelaurate degree. Vining studies between patrolling the streets of Baghdad, raids and helping the locals.

He believes earning a college education is important.

“I have four solders that I have introduced to Rio. The army is willing to pay for it, so why not get your education,” said Vining.

Rio Salado College offers 450 online courses and provides more than 60,000 students annually with the freedom to take classes anytime and anyplace they choose. Classes start every Monday. For registration or more information about military courses call 480-517-8540 or go to

Online Classes Bring School Home

“I tend to learn better online. If I miss something, I can keep going over it until I have it,” said online student Stacia Wenckus.

For three and a half years, Stacia Wenckus has whittled away on her associate in arts degree from Rio Salado College.
A single mom with a full-time job, she has snatched study time between loads of laundry, her son’s naps and the late evening hours.

This May, the Phi Theta Kappa honor student’s diligent efforts will pay off when she graduates. But she’s not done yet. Her goal is to become a nurse so she’s looking to transfer to a university or maybe complete the Rio Salado College online nursing program.

Her favorite classes have been her online anatomy and physiology classes.

“I love those classes. The labs with the cadaver are very detailed and I don’t have to deal with the formaldehyde smell,” said Wenckus.
“Basically everything is right there. You peel away layer after layer, studying each in great depth,” said Wenckus.

Not only have the virtual 3D anatomy labs become a favorite, she’s also become a fan of online learning. Slightly hearing impaired, she hates to interrupt her classmates to ask for clarification. With the online format, she doesn’t have to.

“It’s much better for me. I tend to learn better online. If I miss something, I can keep going over it until I have it,” said Wenckus.

Not only is the course work fascinating, but Wenckus appreciates the freedom of setting her own schedule to pursue a degree online.

Attending a traditional college program when her son was born, Wenckus thought her dreams of a college education would have to be put on hold.

“Rio Salado online has allowed a once closed door to reopen again. A career path I thought that would have to be greatly delayed has become achievable much sooner,” said Wenckus.
Wenckus is like thousands of other students each year who find online degree programs the perfect fit for their lifestyle.
Students who live far from a community college, who have childcare issues and limited chunks of time for classes realize online courses provide a valuable alternative to the traditional college setting.

“Rio Salado’s online courses provide educational opportunities for more students and a more diverse population,” said Rio Salado College President Linda Thor.
“No longer are students forced to align their schedule with the course offerings of a college. Online education allows students to pursue a degree even when time and distance may make gaining a college education challenging,” said Thor.

New improved technology for online classes is also boosting enrollment. Today’s online classes are far different from their earlier counterparts. Online classes at Rio Salado use a variety of technologies to enhance the learning experience including interactive, engaging software, virtual labs and multimedia presentations. Courses also use Auralog voice recognition software to learn foreign languages and WIMBA software that allows students to communicate orally over the web in class discussions and one-on-one with teachers.
“Students in today’s online classes are engaged and active participants in learning,” said Michael Cottam Rio Salado College director of instructional design and technology.

Rio Salado College, ”The College Within Everyone's Reach”, is one of the ten fully-accredited Maricopa County community colleges. Rio Salado has 450 online classes with start dates every Monday. The college offers degrees and certificates in business, education, healthcare, law enforcement and more. For registration or more information call 480-517-8540 or go to

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rio Salado and AARP Offer Free Seminars for 50+ Workers, Employers

Rio Salado College, in partnership with AARP, is offering free seminars specifically for employers and workers age 50 and over at its location in Surprise beginning April 22.

As millions of baby boomers near retirement age, workforce analysts are predicting significant labor shortages in the U.S., according to AARP, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people age 50 and over.

Designed for both employers and 50+ workers, the curriculum addresses issues surrounding how employers can adapt to a changing demographic in the country’s workforce, and the importance the 50+ worker will play in this employment trend.

At the employee seminars, 50+ workers can get information about how to prepare for a career transition or how to excel when working in a multi-generational workplace. At the seminars specifically for businesses, employers can get tips on how to plan for tomorrow's talent and how to save money by retaining skilled workers.

Rio Salado College is the first community college in the nation to offer a curriculum created jointly with AARP. The seminars, which begin in April and through May, will be at the Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center located at 12535 Smokey Drive in Surprise.

Interested employers and community members can register for the seminars by calling 480-377-4261. Details and a course listing are available at

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Accelerated Spring classes offered in the West Valley

Do you need to finish a class quickly? Do you live in the West Valley and want to try out an in-person class? Rio Salado College is now enrolling students in accelerated spring classes at its Luke Air Force Base location.

Rio West Valley, located on the base, offers in-person classes to both military personnel and civilians with clearance. The classes are part of FasTrack, which allows students to finish an entire class in an accelerated eight-week block. Spring classes begin Monday, March 17.

Classes offered this term include Public Speaking, Marriage and Family, Rock Music and Culture, Psychology and Algebra. Rio Salado’s Luke Air Force Base location has morning, afternoon or evening courses, meeting anywhere from one to four days each week.

A complete listing of courses is available at To register for classes, please call 480-377-4010.

Rio Salado College, headquartered in Tempe, AZ has service centers throughout the Valley. The college offers degrees and certificates in business, education, healthcare, law enforcement and more. For more information about Rio Salado, call 480-517-8540 or go to

Monday, March 3, 2008

All-Academic Team Winners Announced

Two of Arizona’s most outstanding community college graduates were broke and living on the street just a few years ago. Today the two are university bound on full-ride scholarships.

Rio Salado College students Jacqueline, 46, and Chris McGovern, 39, have both been selected as members of the Arizona All-Academic Team.

Each year, community colleges throughout Arizona choose two students from their academic ranks to represent the school on the state’s All-Academic Team. The McGoverns’ academic achievements and service to the community distinguished them as Rio Salado’s choice.
Being exceptional students with numerous scholarship offers is a long way from where they had been.

The couple first met in 2002 while living in a homeless shelter in Mesa, Jacqueline there with her one-year old daughter and Chris with his three children under the age of five. They eventually married and moved their family to Coolidge.

Within three years from leaving the shelter, they had worked enough overtime to pay down their debt, improve their credit and buy a home.

“In the homeless shelter you know you’ve failed, especially as a parent. It’s so easy to get buried by that and not want to get up,” Jacqueline McGovern said. “But we’re very stubborn people and we helped each other get back up.”

Once they accomplished their dream of owning a home, they realized what they needed was more education.

An Arizona Department of Corrections officer, Chris had always wanted to be a teacher.

“At the age of 37, I decided it was well passed time to go back to school,” he said.

He encouraged his wife to enroll in college as well.

With busy schedules and far from any college campus, the two chose Rio Salado online classes. Chris majored in history, Jacqueline in communications.

College has been a life-changing experience.

“It was like starting a whole new life. It made me feel so capable and good about myself,” Jacqueline said.

Her first year of classes inspired the former bartender to start her own business doing personal development counseling. She also built a web site for victims of domestic violence and wrote a book about her transformation from ‘victimhood’ to being a happy person, she said.

An honors student with a 3.94 grade point average, Jacqueline will use her scholarship to attend Arizona State University in August, where she plans on earning a doctorate in philosophy.

Chris, also an honors student with a 3.85 GPA, plans to get his doctorate in history in order to teach American History at the university level. He has been accepted at both ASU and Columbia University in New York.

The couple says their education has also had an impact on their children.
“What better example can you give your children than having them watch you succeed, watch you get A’s in class, watch you work hard at school,” Chris McGovern said.

“This country not only allows you to, but wants you to achieve anything that you put your mind to. No matter how low on the scale you go, you’re never out of it,” he said.

Created in 1990, the annual All-Academic Team event recognizes top scholars from Arizona’s community colleges who are also members of local chapters of Phi Theta Kappa Society, the national community college honors organization.

Chris serves as the vice president of leadership and Jacqueline serves as the vice president of scholarship for Rio Salado’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Society.

The 63 students on the team are divided into first, second and third place teams with cash awards. The McGovern’s were both named to the second place team, each receiving a $750 reward in addition to tuition waivers to the Arizona university of their choice from the Arizona Board of Regents.

The McGoverns and other team members were recognized at a luncheon on Feb. 21 at Mesa Community College.

For more information about Rio Salado College, call 480-517-8000 or visit