Alumna influences education policy in the legislature


Meghan Krein

“Nothing prepared me for the Legislature more than teaching middle school,” alumna Heather Carter (MEd '02) says. Carter, who is a clinical associate professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and assistant dean for ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, is also a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives, serving Legislative District 15. Many of us struggle with finding enough hours in the day — Carter doesn’t seem to experience that same struggle.

Advocating from the inside

In her role as lawmaker, Carter focuses on healthcare and education — she serves as the House Health Committee Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. “We have a crisis in our workforce pipeline,” she says. “A strong education system is the cornerstone of a thriving economy. And if we want to ensure Arizona has high-quality education, the first step is to make sure you have an incredible teacher in front of the classroom and incredible leaders leading our schools.”

Regarding education policy, Carter says, “We need more resources for public schools in Arizona. All attention is turned to the teacher shortage. We need to focus our policy efforts toward solving this problem. I firmly believe teachers need to make more money in Arizona. Our state should pay teachers on a market-based system so the best teachers are rewarded for excellent performance. Schools need an appropriate level of funding for school supplies, technology and capital improvements. But tax dollars must be invested wisely by creating a system based on accountability and transparency while eliminating redundancy, inefficiency and unfunded mandates.”

Carter continues, “I also believe that good teachers aren’t going to work for poor leaders, so we need to pay close attention to training, preparing and supporting the next generation of administrators. This often gets lost in the conversation.”

Specifying this feat will take a combined effort, Carter says, “One-hundred percent of my work is done in collaboration. Nothing important gets done, nor does a problem get solved by a single person.” She offers a tip: “I think people should explore collaborative opportunities with those who may not be the partners who come to mind first. In other words, make a concerted effort to identify those who you may not naturally work with, or may not think would be interested in collaboration. Sometimes your greatest allies are those who you would think wouldn’t be interested in working together.”

Back to the beginning

Around the time she met her husband, back in 1993, Carter was working for the Phoenix Suns, selling season tickets — until the Suns lost to the Bulls in the finals and Carter was recruited by a pharmaceutical company to help launch a new anti-epileptic medication. Within the year, Carter got engaged and made the career jump.

Carter educated doctors and pharmacies on the medication until a year later when the FDA pulled it and Carter, along with the company’s entire sales force, was laid off. “At that point in time, I had to make a decision on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” she says, “and I knew I wanted to sell real estate and teach.” Not one to sit on things for too long, Carter quickly earned her real estate license and teaching certificate. (She earned her BA in Communication from ASU in ‘92.)

Taking risks and winning

Soon Carter was student teaching at Greenway Middle School with hopes of leaving to teach elementary or high school. But fate had different plans. “I never expected to fall in love with teaching middle school!” says Carter. She stayed at Greenway for six years, teaching seventh grade ESL science, eighth grade ESL social studies and seventh grade English and social studies. During this time, she was also attending MLFTC, working on her Master’s in Education Technology, which she earned in 2002.

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College didn’t want to see her go and asked her to teach, so Carter started teaching classes in computer literacy. “I’ve been at ASU ever since!” she says. Four years later, Carter earned her EdD in Education Leadership and began organizing and managing the new Teach for America partnership. Carter undertook the project in March 2007, and a mere five months later, her team enrolled over 180 new students, hired 12 new faculty members and revised three alternate pathways to teacher certificate programs for graduate students.

Through her work with Teach for America, Carter helped launch the Downtown Phoenix campus for the College of Teacher Education and Leadership, for which she did community relations. CTEL, as with anything new, experienced tremendous changes and reorganizations, which inspired Carter to run for political office. She began serving in 2011 and is finishing her final term in the House of Representatives. But she’s not stopping there. “I plan to run for the State Senate in 2018,” she says.

Innovating from within

In the meantime, Carter continues to teach four online courses at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and stresses that it is critical to train teachers on how to infuse technology into their teaching. “Using technology effectively as a teaching tool does not happen by osmosis,” she says, adding, “It’s important for faculty to not only teach how to use technology effectively in the classroom but to also model how it can be used in our own university classrooms.”

She is also working to build a noncredit hybrid immersion experience for new graduates that helps them turn their passions and knowledge related to health care into effective advocacy efforts. When asked how she blends her efforts, as in education with healthcare, she says she is still working on it, “Hopefully in the future, there will be opportunities around the school safety issues and behavioral health.”