Thursday, June 19, 2008

Staff and students use less gas to save cash

Matt Saling hasn’t put gas in his truck for two months. An avid biker, Saling rides his bike much of the time including commuting seven miles to work each day. A web developer at Rio Salado College, Saling has been biking to work for more than two years but since gas prices have skyrocketed he admits he’s more motivated to pedal to work.
“I’ve always liked riding my bike to work. It’s a great stress reliever but now it’s also a major relief on my budget,” said Saling.
Gas topping $4.00 a gallon is changing the habits of students and staff alike at Rio Salado College.
“We have really had a substantial interest in alternative modes of transportation including carpooling, bus passes and biking in the last month,” said Ginger Martindale Rio Salado College’s manager of college employee services.
Carpooling participation alone has increased by more than twenty-five percent in the last few weeks at the college, said Martindale.
Sticker shock at the pump is also making an impact on students. Rio Salado student Charles Palau had to quit his job because of the cost of gas.
“It was costing me money to keep the job. I couldn’t afford to get there,” said Palau of Tempe.
And with living expenses so high including the price of gas, Palau gave up his Arizona State University classes and signed up for online classes at Rio Salado College.
“Online classes save me time and money,” said Palau.
Lilian Recinos is another Rio Salado student that says record high prices of gas have made her a believer in online classes.
A first grade teacher who is working on earning her English Language Learner (ELL) endorsement, Recinos said she chose Rio Salado online classes for their flexibility but with the price of gas the online format has become even more attractive.
“It helps now that gas is so expensive,” said Recinos who hopes to have her endorsement by 2009.
Rio Salado student Sarah Chapman is another fan of online classes’ convenience and flexibility. She’s taken both in-person and online classes. But says the cost of gas has encouraged her to continue on with her online schedule.
“Online classes are an extremely cost effective way to get a college degree,” said Sylvia Hantla Dean of Enrollment Services.
“Students save both time and money taking online classes. There is no gas to buy, no wear and tear on the car, no childcare fees and you can adjust your online classes to fit your work schedule,” said Hantla.
Rio Salado College is locally and nationally renowned for its innovative approach to higher education. A pioneer of online learning and known as “the college within everyone’s reach,” Rio Salado optimizes the online learning experience with a variety of advantages including; more than 450 online courses, start dates every Monday, 24/7 online technical and instructional support, $65 a credit tuition and classes easily transferable to a university. One of the ten Maricopa Community Colleges, the college offers degrees and career and technical certificates in business, computer technology, early childhood and teacher education, healthcare, law enforcement and more. For registration or more information call 480-517-8540 or go to

Monday, June 9, 2008

New elearning design classes offered

Remember the last employee training you were forced to attend. Think of the stifling classroom setting, the monotonous lecture and the dull slide show that ate up your day and left little time to work.

So does your boss! That’s why more and more employers are asking training managers to put employee training online. And it doesn’t have to be mundane.

Instead online interactive training can include compelling video, flashy graphics and interesting audio that catches the attention of participants with a brand new elearning design program offered at Rio Salado College.

The program, one of the first in the country to be offered at the undergraduate certificate level, will begin in July.

Registration and enrollment are currently taking place for the 21 credit program which offers a certification of completion.

“More and more often management tasked with provided training is asked to put it online. While they may be experts in the content area they have no experience designing effective training online,” said Jennifer Freed Faculty Chair for the new program.

“This program is designed for people in training who want to put their training online in a professional interactive format,” Freed said.

Included in the 21 credit certification program is a three credit internship with local business and schools that will allow students to perfect their techniques.

“We are gearing this program to be hands-on. The focus is on the students to design training using the new technology that is out there,” said Freed.

Students in the program will explore web-based technology such as wikis, blogs, video sharing, and social networking and to use them in course design.

Interest in the new program has been high, focus groups and the programs advisory council have agreed there is a need for training managers to have these skills.

“They are begging us for employees. They want the internships now,” said Freed.
Although there are some graduate course work available in elearning this is one of the few programs offered at the undergraduate level and for certification, said Freed.
Course in elearning begin in July with additional course work to be added in the fall. Courses include those on eLearning media, elearning environments and organizing and evaluating elearning projects.

Prerequisites for the program include English 101 or technical writing, one humanities or fine arts course, one social or behavioral science course or equivalent and a general education natural science course. There are no prerequisites for students with an associate degree or higher.
Rio Salado College offers more than 450 online courses and is one of the nation’s largest providers of certifications. One of the ten Maricopa Community Colleges, tuition at Rio Salado College is $65 a credit. The college offers degrees and certificates in business, education, healthcare, law enforcement and more. For registration or more information about the program call Jennifer Freed, Faculty Chair at 480-517-8384, or one of Rio Salado’s academic advisors 480.517.8580 or go to

"Teacher of the Year" honored

Rio Salado honors special education teacher

Eighth grader Hali Aldridge is a different child than she was just a few years ago.
A former struggling special education student, Hali today is a successful learner, recently nominated for a leadership position at her school.
Her mother credits much of the change to her Ironwood Elementary Special Education Teacher Helen Ciba.
Ciba was recently selected from more than 500 nominees as “Teacher of the Year” in the “Excellence in Education” program sponsored by Rio Salado College in partnership with KEZ 99.9 FM.
“I can hardly believe it happened to me. I look around and there is a lot of awesome teachers and how it could be me just amazes me,” said Ciba.
Marianne Aldridge, Hali's mother said without Ciba’s help and her daughter’s hard work Hali’s life would be very different.
“My daughter is now completely in regular classes and preparing to go to high school next year. She is a successful and bright child getting all A's and B's and nothing but praise from her 8th grade teachers,” said Aldridge.
“Mrs. Ciba was always there and willing to help with questions or concerns or just inspiring my daughter to be the best she could be,” wrote Aldridge in her nomination letter.
Ciba is passionate about her role as a mentor and teacher. In fact she’s not ready for summer vacation. She’d be happy if she could stay in the classroom for another month or two.
“I don’t want the school year to end. I still have more to teach,” said the special education teacher.
Although awarded the “Teacher of the Year,” Ciba is fairly new in the classroom. A volunteer in the school her kids attended, it was the principal who persuaded Ciba to consider teaching.
“I’ve know Helen a lot of years. I always loved her enthusiasm and her creativity with kids,” said Ironwood Elementary Principal Jim Padglick.
Ciba began teaching special education in 2001 with an emergency certification earning her teaching degree nights and weekends.
She teaches a fourth and fifth grade cross categorical behavioral class, students for the most part who are behaviorally challenged.
“Helen is very patient and works very well and truly cares about students. It is hard to maintain that with the population as tough as she has,” said Padglick.
Watching students progress and make changes during the year is rewarding for Ciba.
“I love to watch the kids have the ah ha experience, it just really thrills me,” said Ciba.
Rio Salado began the “Excellence in Education” program two years ago to recognize and reward teachers who are role models and mentors for their students and have made an outstanding contribution to education. One teacher each month is selected throughout the school year for a total of nine. The nine selected throughout the year are recognized at a special luncheon held in May. Ciba was awarded a check for $999 from KEZ.
Teachers are role models said Salado College President Linda Thor as she thanked the nine “Excellence in Education” winners.
“You are being honored today because you are role models who inspire. We want to say thank you for the many lives you shape. Thank you for being great teachers who inspire.” said Thor.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

RioLounge virtual student union is Rio cool

Students at Rio Salado College are lining up for the college’s new student union. They are looking forward to meeting new people, joining discussion groups, chatting with friends, getting updates to news and activities and posting items for sale on the bulletin board.
Fortunately, students from around the country and even the world will have access to the college’s snazzy new student union because it’s all online.
The virtual student union dubbed RioLounge, is designed to give online students the same social aspects of college at the click of the mouse.
“As an online college we realized what some of our students are missing is the social community they get in a traditional college. We think this will fill the gap,” said Kishia Brock Rio Salado dean of enrollment management.
Not only is the RioLounge the MySpace or Facebook of Rio Salado it also has dozens of articles on timely subjects as well as links for tutoring, the library, advisement, students services, etc.
There is even a link for an orientation for online learning, chock full of tips on how to become a successful online learner.
“We are hoping to keep students more engaged and focused with Rio Salado’s helpful resources right at the tips of their fingers,” said Brock.
Rio Salado’s virtual student union is divided into six different sections. Under “The Buzz” students can access the online library, get tips on how to prepare for exams, access financial aid, career counseling, academic advisement and special services.
A link titled “People” is a section for meeting new people and interacting with friends. Discussions are where students will want to go to chat about a variety of topics. And “Favorites” helps students link with others with the same focus and interest. Community allows students to post items for sell or create online clubs.
“Connecting with others through social networking is becoming more and more popular. We know social networking is popular with students and we want to make sure our Rio Salado students have a place to interact with each other,” said Brock. MySpace and Facebook are some of the most trafficked web sites in the world. According to MySpace has 110 million active users and Facebook has 68 million. To access RioLounge go to
Rio Salado College has more than 26,000 online students and 450 online classes. Classes start every Monday so students can start anytime and anywhere.
One of the ten Maricopa Community Colleges, tuition at Rio Salado College is $65 a credit, less than a third of what most private online colleges charge. 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

Students learn culinary skills while incarcerated

Dressed in the white chef’s coat and black and white checkered pants, Virginia, 16, carefully dips the ladle in the batter and drips it on to the griddle. In minutes the delicate crepe is ready to turn.
Across the state-of-the-art kitchen Desiree carefully measures the flour before dumping it into the full-size commercial mixer. Standing next to her, a student cuts her way through the mound of vegetables for a salad.
The high school students are participating in a Rio Salado College dual credit culinary program, learning the basics of food preparation including bakery skills and how to create a variety of sauces.
Earlier this month the students competed in Skills USA, a high school competition for students in career and technical education. The competition was a great learning experience for students. While the class resembles dozens of career and technical education programs across the state there are some important differences. Knives used in the production of the food are secured to the cutting board making it impossible to remove them from the kitchen. And although the students wear the standard chef’s uniform they are all stripped searched before being allowed to begin class.
Students in the program are part of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections and are incarcerated at the Black Canyon School. The culinary arts program is designed to prepare juvenile offenders to enter the work force once they are released.
“It’s great. I love it,” said Virginia, who had never gone to high school before being committed to the Black Canyon School. Each day the students attend class from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. By the time they finish the culinary program the girls will have earned 12 college credits and learned a skill. Desiree plans to get a job in a hotel restaurant once she is released. She knows her culinary certificate from Rio Salado will boost her chances of landing the job she wants.
“Before I came here I cooked everything in the microwave,” said Desiree.
The program does more than prepare students for entering the work force. It boosts self-confidence and reduces the rate of recidivism for offenders.
“We’ve seen it time and time again, evidence of the difference an education can make in the stories formerly incarcerated students tell us. They talk about the sense of accomplishment gained from successfully completing a class; and the confidence learning a skill gives them. Most importantly, that winning combination results in an increased probability of livable wage employment and the chance for a better life,” said Rio Salado College Dean Jo Jorgenson, who has been working with incarcerated students for 20 years.
“What our school is trying to do is make them lifelong learners. We want to motivate them to keep on learning,” said Brook Toney their instructor.
“Everything we do here is to prepare them for being successful once they are out,” said Toney.
Toney, a former chef finds working with incarcerated youth is a job she is passionate about.
“I love this class. I get instant satisfaction. It’s much more rewarding than working in a restaurant. You get to see these kids gain a skill they can use on the outside and that’s our main reason to be here, to fix it so they don’t come back,” said Toney. The program has a major impact on students.
“It’s a huge asset to have the culinary program at our school. We need more career and technical education programs. It’s been very motivating for our youth,” said Keryl Work, Black Canyon Superintendent.
"We are able to arrange employment opportunities and contacts for the students. We help to set them up with jobs and they're working so it increases their chances for success in the community. It's a protective factor,” said Work.
Rio Salado College has been offering educational opportunities to incarcerated students for 25 years. The college has more than 450 distance learning classes available.
For registration or more information call 480-517-8540 or go to