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San Luis educator among 10 Champions of Change
A San Luis educator was one of 10 recently recognized at the White House for his innovative ideas and dedication in the classroom.
Jesus Arrizon was invited to the event by the White House and the President's Advisory Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanics as a Champion of Change, a program created to honor teachers across the country for their commitment to bettering students.
The instructors were celebrated for their focus to improve student achievement and to close the gap for the students in their classes, many of whom are Hispanic and English language learners.
“It was really, really exciting to be able to mention what we do at the junior high and also at the college. I was really proud of being honored for that,” said Arrizon, who is an associate math professor at Arizona Western College's San Luis Center and also a math teacher at Southwest Junior High School in San Luis, Ariz.
Arrizon played an integral role in providing his students the opportunity to take college courses while still in junior high.
Through the college classes and the school's ACT preparation courses, he said, more than 100 junior high students passed the ACT and qualified for scholarships to attend various Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth summer programs at universities across the country.
“We don't lead them to fail, we lead them to be successful,” he said.
Arrizon said students are not required to take the college courses, but those who do thoroughly enjoy it and have the opportunity to take courses for college credit.
During the White House event, educators shared their best practices, models and teaching strategies for engaging and educating students. Arrizon also participated in a panel in which instructors were asked what they would say to President Barack Obama if they had the opportunity.
He said he shared that he would ask President Obama for support for programs such as his across the country because a lot of times they run out of funds for books and tuition for students. Arrizon noted also that more opportunities for students to participate in programs like this would help raise test scores.
Arrizon added that although this program takes a lot of work to identify students who might qualify to take college courses, get them tested and placed into the right courses and enrolled through college, it is worth it to see the students succeed.
“Sometimes I feel like I should throw the towel in, this is too much work and sometimes I didn't think it was being recognized but now ... I feel excited and very happy. I feel renewed, like I can keep going for another six years.”
Arrizon is from a farmworker family of 14 who emigrated from Mexico in 1976.
“His father worked in the lettuce fields for more than 30 years, and one of his main goals was to provide his family with the opportunity to attend college and fulfill the American Dream,” stated an AWC release.
Arrizon earned his associate's degree in medical technology from AWC and later completed an engineering degree at the University of Arizona.
After working in the mining industry for 13 years, he decided to change his career path and go into education.
“I always wanted to do teaching. When I was in school ... I was tutoring in chemistry and algebra. So I always liked to tutor and help my friends and also tutor other people at the university.”
Arrizon received his master's degree in education from the University of Phoenix and has been teaching at AWC and in the Gadsden Elementary School District for 11 years.
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.