Monday, December 3, 2018

Rio Alum Awarded for Classroom Excellence

Educator Preparation completer Robert Upham (second from right) 
          

Bob Upham was ready to retire from a 30-year career as a civil engineer but wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for the next 15 years of his life.

Bob Upham
      
“I couldn’t sit in a rocking chair on my front porch at the age of 52. I would go absolutely insane,” said Upham who worked for the Arizona Department of Transportation and the cities of Chandler and Phoenix.

“I was the guy who would stand in front of people at public meetings telling them why ripping up the street in front of their business for the fourteenth time was such a good thing,” he said.

But as uncomfortable as that may sound, Upham realized that it was during those public education meetings that he developed a passion for explaining things and ultimately, for teaching.

“Throughout that whole process, I found a love for education,” he said. So Upham decided to become a teacher and that’s when he learned about the Robert Noyce scholarship program through Rio Salado College’s Teacher Education program in Tempe, AZ (See related RioNews story).

Through the National Science Foundation, the scholarship provided a stipend to cover tuition, books and other needs directly related to the teaching program. "It's effective, and is making a difference," said Kimberly Tobey, Rio Salado’s Director of Field and Student Teaching Experiences.

National Science Foundation logo

     
The Noyce program is designed to train and certify K-12 teachers in the fields of Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math, or STEM. It requires them to commit to teaching in high-needs school districts, which typically include those that have a lack of teachers in certain subject areas, such as STEM.  Upham got a job as a math teacher in the Kyrene school district outside of Phoenix.

STEM candidates are in high demand across the country and the National Science Foundation utilizes the grant opportunity for higher education to impact the critical teacher shortage. Upham says he probably would’ve become certified at his own expense even if he had not received the scholarship, but said that being part of the Rio program made it a much better experience than if he had gone it alone.
“I had a bunch of people around me [at Rio] that cared about my success,” Upham said. "I wasn’t just a student at a school. I was part of a program that supports and cares for their students. And that continued when I was teaching in the classroom.”
Upham has already fulfilled his two-year commitment to teaching in a high-needs area and could choose to go anywhere in the country now. But he says he has no plans to leave the Kyrene middle school classroom. “I like what I do. I like where I teach and I like my students.”


Upham presents progress report to Rio Salado faculty as new 
Noyce grad and teacher during summer 2016. Click to see video


His commitment has not gone unnoticed by school officials. Based on improved test scores in his classrooms, Upham has been recognized as one of the top educators in the Kyrene district.

Kim Tobey
Tobey says Upham’s decision to stay in Arizona is a plus for the Rio Salado post-baccalaureate program. She says the program to certify adults who already have a bachelor’s degree flies somewhat under the radar. 

“Most of the time in Arizona you don’t think about Rio Salado as having a post-baccalaureate certification program, even though we’ve had it for 18 years,” says Tobey.

People like Upham can get certified in a high needs area like STEM “and not have to go into debt to do it,” says Tobey. “What Bob’s award shows is the quality of Rio’s Educator Preparation Program, and more importantly its program completers, are impacting local classrooms, preparing a strong STEM workforce, and meeting a nationwide shortage."

"I'm preparing the future generation of engineers," says Upham. "What could be better?"

By Rio Salado College Sr. Project Manager and Brand Journalist Mark Moran

Learn more about Rio Salado’s Teacher Education programs at www.riosalado.edu/programs/education.