Monday, February 23, 2009

Jail visits on tap for dual-enrollment high school students

Cassio Saverino’s high school students are preparing for a class field trip in March. But this won’t entail a museum or park visit. Instead, students will pass through metal detectors and get ID badges to visit their trip destination: Maricopa County’s Estrella Jail and Tent City.

While the students enjoy the experience (and a day out of the classroom!), Saverino said the jail visits serve as more than just a straight-out scare tactic.

“It’s a great stepping stone for talking about civil rights,” Saverino said. “The students get a first-hand look at a jail facility, and also learn about the different levels of government and the basics of the criminal justice system.”

Saverino teaches a course on the U.S. Constitution at Mountain Ridge High School, and his students earn college credit for the class through Rio Salado College’s dual enrollment program. Saverino has been teaching the course since 1998, and leading the jail visit field trip since 2000.

“Jail itself is an intimidating factor,” Saverino said.” The minute the cell doors close, there is a definite effect on the students. But the corrections officers are open and honest. Students ask a lot of questions and there is a good exchange of information.”

Occasionally students will have the opportunity to speak with an inmate, although that is not always feasible. What is on the students’ agenda? “Their assignment is to eat the lunch that is provided to all inmates at the jail,” Saverino said. “That is kind of their badge of honor.”

Saverino also discusses administrative issues with the students, such as understanding the financial aspects of running a jail, the role of a sheriff, and the responsibilities of both city and federal governments.

Of the jail field trips, Saverino says he wants his students to come away with first-hand knowledge of our country’s justice system, and also “to acknowledge that inmates are people too. You like to think that all inmates are all bad, evil people. But many, especially those in jails, are everyday average people who just made bad decisions.”

“Visiting the jail and court is wonderful learning environment outside of classroom, and is always the highlight for my students,” Saverino said.

Through the dual enrollment program, eligible high school students can earn college credit for specific courses at their high schools. Rio Salado works with 48 local high schools to offer dual enrollment, including McClintock, Tempe, Marcos de Niza and Corona del Sol high schools in Tempe, and Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high schools in Ahwatukee.

“We have a lot of college-bound students,” Saverino said. “I encourage them to get as many credits as they can during high school, especially with the current state of our economy, so that they can finish a semester or even a year early.”

For more information about Rio Salado’s dual enrollment program, visit

About Rio Salado College
Rio Salado, founded in 1978, is one of the ten Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona. The college serves more than 60,000 students annually, more than half online, making it the “college within everyone’s reach.” Rio Salado offers general education courses as well as a variety of degree and certificate programs. For more information visit

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bigfoot to Ghostbusters, Instructor has Seen it All

Chris Behymer has seen it all. More specifically, he has insured it all. Bigfoot? Covered. Goat grazer? Check. Ghostbusters? No problem. The Rio Salado College instructor and insurance professional deals with many such scenarios at his job for a local specialty insurance company.

“I had a guy in North Carolina who wanted to look for Bigfoot on Federal forest land,” Beyhmer said. “He wanted to put cameras in the trees because he was sure he could capture an image. But the national Forest Service required a proof of insurance, in case a camera fell on someone.”

Thanks to specialty insurance companies, the Bigfoot seeker and others in unusual situations can proceed with their ventures.

According to Behymer, the Phoenix area is home to three of the top 10 specialty insurance markets in the country. A specialty insurance company insures hard-to-place property and casualty risks not normally covered by the major companies.

Examples of events Behymer has insured are circus performances, carnivals, and even a shark watching cruise. “One of the shark boats didn’t make it back,” Behymer recalled. “In that instance, the marina was sued for failure to warn of inclement weather.”

Behymer said people can insure on-going activities and one-time events, where costs typically vary depending on the number of participants and the location.

“You can get coverage for a family reunion for around $300, but there are variables,” Behymer said. “For instance, a city-owned park might require insurance for a party of 50 people or more, and the cost goes up if alcohol is served. However, if it’s a reunion tour with Guns and Roses, the cost would be in the thousands of dollars.”

Perhaps the best-known provider of specialty insurance worldwide is Lloyd’s of London, a company that serves businesses in over 200 countries. Lloyd’s covers a wide array of unusual risks including celebrity body parts, helicopters in war torn Baghdad, and the 2004 Athens Olympics.

One of Behymer’s more unusual clients? The aforementioned goat grazer.

“There was this man in California who owned goats,” Behymer said. “People with weeds in their pastures would call him up and have him drop off his goats for a few days.” In that case, insurance was required in case the goats decided to bite a third party or damage any non-edible property.

Behymer has also insured the cross-country shipping of a valuable Chinese Buddha, and a large arts and crafts fair in Tempe.

At Rio Salado, Behymer teaches “Principles of Property and Liability Insurance,” “Personal Insurance” and “Commercial Insurance.” He encourages his students to take all three courses for a fundamental understanding of the insurance industry.

“In order to understand the specialty side of insurance, you need to first know the basics,” Behymer said. That includes knowing who’s an insured, the different parts of a policy and how insurance companies measure their success. His courses also address the basics of auto and home insurance, small business issues and property liabilities.

For a complete list of all the courses offered through Rio Salado College, visit

About Rio Salado College
Rio Salado, founded in 1978, is one of the ten Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona. The college serves more than 60,000 students annually, more than half online, making it the “college within everyone’s reach.” Rio Salado offers general education courses as well as a variety of degree and certificate programs. For more information visit

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rio Salado Featured in "Arizona Parenting"

The benefits of online learning and Rio Salado College are mentioned in an article in the February issue of Arizona Parenting magazine. The article is about employment and education options for new mothers. Read the article at

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rio Teacher to be Student in Argentina

Turnaround is fair play, especially when the teacher becomes the student. This summer, Rio Salado adjunct faculty member Ken Schofield takes part in a Fulbright Administrator Exchange Program where he will learn the ins and outs of the education system in Argentina. And because he is not fluent in Spanish, the experience will truly be one of learning.

“I know basic classroom Spanish, so language will definitely be a barrier,” Schofield said, “but I hope to build some degree of understanding.” Schofield added he will be using the Rosetta Stone language learning program to brush up on his Spanish skills.

Schofield teaches classes at Rio Salado College in early childhood education and for the English as a Second Language program.

“Going to Argentina will provide me with an opportunity to see how things are for our students who come to the United States and don't speak the native language,” Schofield said. “I will have a chance to employ some of the English language learning techniques that I use in my courses to help me understand what I am hearing.”

He notes that those techniques include using body language, visuals, and speaking slowly to facilitate communication.
“Being the second language learner makes me more compassionate and understanding in what my English language learning students are going through and how it impacts what and how they learn,” Schofield said.

Last year, Schofield applied for Fulbright, a program that matches U.S. teachers and administrators with a counterpart in another country having similar responsibilities. The exchange can last a few weeks, a semester or a year, with a goal of “contributing to the mutual understanding between the United States and countries around the world.”

Schofield is also a principal in the Washington Elementary School District in Phoenix. His exchange counterpart, Inés Acerbi, a school principal from Rosario (Argentina’s third largest city), visited Arizona last October.

“Inés was overwhelmed with how much we had, and with our technology,” Schofield said. “Here we think we are lacking in school supplies, but how they fund schools in Argentina makes us look amazing.”

Schofield said the Argentine government pays to build their schools, but it is up to the individual principals to provide the books, desks and necessary supplies. He added that his elementary school raised over $1,000 for his counterpart’s school, a gift he will deliver this summer.

While in Argentina, Schofield will shadow Acerbi “to learn how she does teacher training as well as principal duties. I want to learn how things are done there, and incorporate that into what we do in the United States,” he said. “The best of both worlds.”

For those looking to improve their English skills, Rio Salado College offers free, non-credit classes for legal residents. The classes and programs (English for Speakers of other Languages and English Language Acquisition for Adults) help individuals focus on listening, reading, speaking and writing the English language. Students at all levels of English comprehension can take these classes. For more information visit

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rio Salado Participates in National Teach-In Feb. 5th

Rio Salado College is participating in the National Teach-In on Global Warming Solutions on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009. The “First 100 Days” webcast is available to view as part of the Teach-In activities. In the webcast, David Orr, Hunter Lovins, Betsy Taylor, Ray Anderson, Billy Parish and Wahleah Johns discuss global warming solutions for the first 100 days of the new presidential administration. As educators, students and citizens, we owe our nation a focused conversation about the critical decisions that will determine if our descendants will inherit a prosperous or an impoverished planet. For more information, go to:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Stretch Dollars at Community College

With falling home values, rising gas prices and tax time right around the corner, saving money has never been a higher priority, especially when it comes to education. Many people may delay pursing a college education because they have to earn a living, support a family, or simply feel they cannot afford it.

Along with everything else, the cost of attending college is rising rapidly. If either you or your children aspire to a university degree, you may already be facing huge expenses. It’s no longer unusual for graduates to accumulate significant debt by the time they complete their degree. Fortunately, there is an economic option that just makes sense: community college.

Transferable Credits
Students can save money by starting their college education at a community college and completing the basic Arizona General Education Curriculum courses to earn their associate’s (two-year) degree. They can then transfer the credits to a 4-year university to obtain their bachelor’s degrees, a potential savings of several thousand dollars when you factor in the cost of on-campus living.

Credits can be transferred to many colleges and universities across the United States, including Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

Affordable Tuition
For Maricopa County residents, taking classes at Rio Salado (or any of the Maricopa Community Colleges) is one of the best deals in the Valley. Students pay $71 per credit, compared to an average of $338 per credit for in-state tuition at Arizona’s 4-year public universities. For one year (at 24 credits), expect to pay approximately $1,734 at a community college versus an average of $4,953 at one of the in-state public universities.

Online Classes
Don’t think the education received at a community college is somehow inferior, simply because it’s less expensive.

“All of our faculty are certified and many have real-world experience,” said Dr. Pat Case, president of the faculty at Rio Salado College. “We have high standards and faculty members are evaluated on an ongoing basis.”

Case also notes a low (3 percent) turnover in adjunct faculty. “I know they enjoy teaching in an online environment because they truly feel connected to the students. Therefore, there is no opportunity for a student in the back of the classroom to get lost.”

Start College in High School
Seniors, juniors, and qualified sophomores and freshmen are eligible to earn college credit for specific college-level courses at over 50 area high schools, including Tempe High School, McClintock High School and Marcos de Niza High School. Credits for high school and college are earned simultaneously during regular school hours.

“We’ve had high school students graduate from high school with enough dual enrollment credits to make them a junior in college,” said EJ Anderson, coordinator of Institutional Programs at Rio Salado College. “That’s a tremendous savings for both students and their parents.”

So when considering your educational options, take into account that community colleges are a viable, affordable way to achieve your education goals.

For more information about community college affordability, visit