Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rio Salado Wins Gold Edison Award

What does Rio Salado College have in common with the Apple iPhone, WiiFit and the Obama Campaign? It recently won a Gold Edison Award.

On April 1, Rio Salado College, 2323 W. 14th St., Tempe, was awarded the top honors in the Living and Working Environments category during the prestigious 2009 Edison Best New Product Awards. The college was honored for the innovative workspace design and furniture arrangements at its newly renovated administrative headquarters. The space, which is designed to bring Rio’s faculty and administrators together, allows a wide range of groupings for interactive gatherings for anywhere from two to 200 people, and encourages and supports brainstorming, peer critiques, and the free exchange of ideas.

“We often overlook academia as a place where innovation needs to be nurtured,” said Sarah Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of Thomas Edison and chairperson of the Edison Awards Steering Committee. “Rio Salado's innovative renovation of this centrally-located workspace has enabled faculty and staff alike to benefit. It is my hope that more educational institutions will follow the strong example Rio Salado College has set. The college has established an excellent benchmark for what will be necessary for nominees to compete effectively in future years.”

The Edison Awards were established in 1987 and have honored some of the mostinnovative companies, business leaders and products in corporate America. Other 2009 Gold Edison Award winners include: WiiFit, Apple iPhone, MacBook Air, the Obama Campaign, Omnipod, Tide to Go, NogginLabs, Trek Madone 5.2, and Bixi – Montreal Bike System.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Career Fair Highlights Teaching Opportunities

Future teachers hoping to make a job connection will get a head start at Rio Salado’s 7th annual Teacher Career Fair on Thursday, April 30, from 2-6 p.m. The fair is free and open to the public.

“Our goal is to foster a community-wide event connecting, public, charter, and private schools with potential teacher candidates,” said Paulina Ngo, marketing coordinator for Rio Salado’s Teacher Education program.

According to Ngo, while some school districts are facing layoffs, there are hiring opportunities for teachers in Title I and charter schools and districts in rural communities, especially in high-need areas such as special education, math and science.

“I think students will absolutely benefit from the career fair experience,” said Janine Weyers, Field Experience Coordinator for the Teacher Education program.

“Even if it does not lead to a job immediately, students can make contacts and learn about the various school districts,” Weyers said. “Having that exposure and talking to human resources personnel will help prepare them for a time when jobs are available.”

Leanna DeKing (photo above) and Gary Kreus are two Rio Salado students who will attend the career fair in hopes of landing a position.

“I plan to network and place myself before several people representing as many schools and districts as possible,” Kreus said. “If no offers are extended, I will try and maintain contact with the districts over the next school year.”

DeKing realizes today’s economy may make it more challenging to find a position. “With the tremendous number of teachers that received non-renewal or reduction in force notices, the market is very competitive.”

DeKing recently completed Rio Salado’s Teacher-in-Residence program, and focused on special education because it provided her “the opportunity to help students who are perhaps most in need of my skills and talents,” she said.

Even if she doesn’t land a position, DeKing plans to continue her education. “I am currently working on my master’s degree in education, and my long-term goal is to obtain an educational leadership position.”

Kreus decided to pursue a teaching career to fulfill a lifelong interest in social studies and sharing that knowledge with students. His future goal is to teach high school social studies in either the Deer Valley or Glendale school districts.

“The influence of my own teachers also had a large bearing for me in making this choice,” Kreus added.

Kreus found Rio’s online teacher certification program convenient, because it allowed him to continue working while he pursued the post-baccalaureate program.

“The high-quality course material and challenging assignments have prepared me for the reality of teaching and managing a classroom effectively,” Kreus said.

“School districts love coming to our career fairs because they find our students to be well prepared,” Weyers said. “And our students love the fair because it is such good career exposure for them.”

For more information about the Teacher Career Fair call (480) 517-8414 or visit

Monday, April 20, 2009

From Migrant Family to College Graduate

Maria Luz Navarrete is one of a kind. Just ask her family. The 53-year-old is about to graduate with an associate degree in general education from Rio Salado College. That is a remarkable feat in itself for someone who first began her college career 25 years ago. What is more remarkable is that Navarrete is an unlikely student, having been born into a migrant family.

“My father didn’t have one day of education, and my mother only went to the 2nd grade,” said Navarrete, the fifth child of six siblings. “But their expectation of attending and finishing school was of the utmost importance. My parents didn’t want us to continue the lifestyle we were born into.”

A few years ago, at a family reunion, one of Navarrete’s cousins commented on the low number of grandchildren in Navarrete’s family.

“Our cotton picking days are over,” replied Navarrete. “Plus, there are machines doing that now.”

Thanks to her upbringing, Navarrete knew that education was a must in her quest for a better life. She began taking community college classes in the 1980s, but was forced to drop out due to working full-time, raising two daughters as a single mother and caring for her ailing father.

Despite these challenges, Navarrete was determined to fulfill her dream.

“The main reason I returned to school was to finish something that I had desired for many years,” said Navarrete, who has worked in the Mesa school district for 28 years, most recently as a liaison in the Migrant Child Education Program.

“We broke the cycle that would’ve kept us from searching for and reaching a better life,” she said.

Navarrete chose to continue her education at Rio Salado College because it offered flexibility, mixed-media classes and supportive academic advising.

“My academic advisor Jacqueline Beale listened to me whenever I called her with any concerns, worries or uncertainties,” Navarrete said. “She would remind me of how much I’ve gone through to get to this point, and how it would feel to reach my goals.”

Navarrete won’t be the family’s only graduate this May. Her youngest daughter Estrella is getting a degree from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.

“My plan is to have a double graduation party,” said Navarrete. “Now that I’ve fulfilled my goal of obtaining my associate degree, I’ve proven to myself that I could do it. I made good grades, supported my daughter and worked a full-time job. My social life took a back seat for many months, but it was worth it!”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tempe Grandmother Logs on to Career in Nursing

Control-Alt-Delete. Scrolling and clicking. Menus and icons. These are basic terms familiar to a majority of today’s students. In fact, current television commercials depict children using computers to download and email photos, and make mini-movies online, seemingly boasting “it’s so easy a 4-year-old can do it!”

But to Tempe resident Doris Laidlaw, a mother a five and grandmother of four, computers were a foreign concept. And that was a scary prospect for someone who wanted to go back to school and get a nursing degree.

“I was not deterred by the little fact that I knew absolutely nothing about computers,” said Laidlaw, whose lifelong goal is to become a registered nurse.

“The first time I thought about becoming a nurse was when I was 9 years old,” Laidlaw said. “My grandfather died I did not understand why he could not be saved. I wanted to learn to save someone’s life.”

Laidlaw has worked for 17 years as an LPN, and has spent the last seven years specializing in home health care nursing for special needs children.

She originally decided to pursue a nursing degree 27 years ago, taking general studies classes at various local community colleges.

“I have always planned to finish my degree, but stopped school to raise my growing family,” said Laidlaw. “Being a wife, mother, and grandmother has kept me very busy, so that traditional school wasn’t an option.”

Unfazed, Laidlaw began exploring her options, and learned about Rio Salado’s online nursing program.

“Online classes allowed me to finish my degree without totally abandoning my family,” Laidlaw said, adding there was a learning curve involved.

“At times it was very frustrating when I couldn’t figure out how to save, copy, or send something,” said Laidlaw. “I turned to my friends or classmates and they would talk me through it. I called the technical support desk so often they knew me by name!”

Laidlaw also received support from her family. “My children didn’t give me advice so much as encouragement,” she said. “They always wish me good luck when I take a test and say ‘good job’ when I pass it. They are all very proud of me.”

Laidlaw credits the flexibility and quality of Rio Salado’s program for helping her realize her dream. “I would recommend Rio because their program has state-of-the-art technology that offers technical help 24 hours a day, an online library, and tutoring,” she said. “The best part is the convenience of doing your homework anytime, anywhere and being able to make it fit your own schedule.”

Laidlaw will receive her Associate in Applied Science in Nursing degree at Rio Salado’s 2009 Commencement ceremony on May 15, 2009.

“Graduating with my RN degree is one of the most significant achievements of my life,” said Laidlaw. “Because I was 15 when I had my first child, I got my GED instead of graduating from high school. So the upcoming cap and gown experience is especially meaningful for me.”

For more information about Rio Salado’s online nursing program visit

Monday, April 6, 2009

Rio Salado College Launches Magazine

Out with the old, in with the new and improved. Next week, Rio Salado College debuts its new publication, U @ Rio Salado magazine, which features course listings, informative articles and valuable information about taking online classes through Rio Salado.

In the past, Rio Salado published a class schedule each year listing course options at the college. With the debut of U @ Rio Salado, the college is moving to a more instructive and interactive format.

“The magazine will still highlight some class offerings,” said Dr. Linda M. Thor, president of Rio Salado College. “But we also wanted to present an overview of the community college experience at Rio Salado.”

A complete listing of Rio Salado’s 500+ classes is available online, while the magazine will provide a synopsis of the top online classes by enrollment and degree pathway.

The debut issue of U @ Rio Salado includes articles on Tempe residents who have turned their passion for teaching into careers, a class that helps students identify what career is right for them, and how one Rio teacher will soon become a student.

In addition, the magazine highlights the benefits of online learning through Rio Salado, with articles about the online student union, and about RioLearn, the college’s innovative and cutting-edge way to deliver and manage course content.

Several academic programs are covered in the debut issue, including an overview of computer, business and healthcare programs offered at Rio Salado, as well as the introduction of a new associate degree available in the recently established eLearning Design program.

U @ Rio Salado offers tips for students struggling to pay for college in “Financial Aid 101,” and examines the advantages of online learning in “Why Choose Rio Salado Online?”

“If you are seeking college classes to help you obtain a new career or for job advancement, Rio Salado is a smart choice,” Thor said. “Even though there have been recent challenges in the economy, there has never been a better time to strengthen your resume by earning college credits, because the benefits of a college education will last a lifetime.”

U @ Rio Salado will be published three times per year, in April, July and December. It is aavailable for free at all Rio Salado sites, local libraries, Fry’s Marketplace and grocery stores and other businesses throughout Tempe, Phoenix and Scottsdale, as well as online at

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Sales Professional I Class - Enroll Now!

Rio Salado College and Kaiser Companies have partnered to create a new, online learning opportunity for sales professionals. The class, Sales Professional I, outlines the basic principles of relationship selling, and reviews the theories and techniques of successful sales strategies.

Sales Professional I is a non-credit class geared towards salespeople, sales support staff, and those who want to build and revitalize their existing selling skills. The class format includes lectures, innovative online exercises, case studies, and a free one-year subscription to Selling Power magazine.

For more information, visit