Inspired abroad, teaching in Arizona


Jennifer Priest Mitchell

Risa Stuart (BAE ’17), a native of Phoenix, said she hopes to always live in Arizona and always be in or close to the classroom. She will graduate in the spring of 2017 and be certified to teach 7–12 math. She also has a background studying environmental education, but she said math is her passion.

Stuart refined her Spanish to communicate more effectively with students and parents at Phoenix Central High School, where she will begin her senior year residency this fall. She said, “I took a semester off, since I was a year ahead due to taking extra courses in high school and my first two years of college. During that semester, I studied at the Center for International Students at the University of Malaga in Malaga, Spain. It was a great way to polish my conversational Spanish skills.”

 “I first thought about being a teacher during my sophomore year of high school while volunteering with a service learning class,” she said. “I realized that if I was enthusiastic, the students would be enthusiastic. I liked math and when the students saw that, they became really excited about learning math.”

Stuart, a student of Barrett, the Honors College, completed her required thesis, which was a literature review and development of a math unit for teachers, last year. She says that, five years from now, she hopes she will have finished her master’s degree. “I love school, I love learning and I love helping others to learn. So that is the kind of environment I hope to always be in or near.”

Tales Out of School  

 A lightning-round interview that introduces you to members of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College community 

 What three things are always in your fridge?

Avocado, eggs and cheese.

 Coffee or tea:


 Last movie you watched that made you cry:

“Me Before You.”

 Last book you read:

“A Whole New Mind” by Daniel H. Pine.

 The real-life teacher who most inspired you was:

My sophomore- and junior-year Spanish teacher, Julie Vazquez. She encouraged me to partake in a sister cities trip to Alamos, Sonora, Mexico and inspired me to treat the world as my classroom.

 Teaching is the most important profession because …

Education makes every single thing possible. Without teachers, who would educate the other professions in our society?

 Favorite fictional teacher:

Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus.”

 What are you most grateful for?

My family because they love and support me no matter what.

 Why did you choose education as a major?

I love school and I never want to stop learning! I know I'm going to be teaching, but I also know that every day my students will teach me something.

 Who inspired you when you were young, and why?

My mom. She taught me that anything is possible if you are willing to work hard enough for it, but that nothing is worth working so hard that you lose your relationships with people.

 Who inspires you now?

Dr. Mo Walters, a professor here at Mary Lou Fulton teachers College. She has taught me to never stop setting goals while providing me with opportunities to help reach my goals.

 What was the biggest risk you ever took and what did you learn from it?

Studying abroad in Spain this past spring semester. As the saying goes, "The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward." My reward was self-growth and the realization that faith, family and friends can make anything possible.

 Three historical or fictional people you would have over for dinner:

Julia Child (she'd make sure our dinner was delicious), Luke Bryan (he could provide some entertainment) and Neal Caffrey (for intellectual conversation).

 What’s your favorite mode of transportation, and why?

My own two feet because I'm grateful for the ability to use them. Plus, you have to go slow, so it allows time for one to reflect and take in the world. Or I can run, and while running, your feet are off the ground more often than not, so you're basically flying.

 What’s your go-to food?

Peanut butter and an apple.

 ASU moment to remember:

Triple overtime at the ASU vs. U of A basketball game on Valentine's Day 2014 during my freshman year.  We won!

 Biggest change in classrooms from when you were a child to today:

The blame that teachers get when a student doesn't do well. When did students stop taking responsibility?

 If you could listen to only three songs for the rest of your life:

“I Can Only Imagine” by Chris Tomlin; “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw; and

“We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are” by Rich Mullins.

 Biggest mistake:

Allowing money to influence big life decisions.

 Biggest accomplishment:

Traveling the world: Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, France, Ireland and Portugal, all with my own financial backing, fundraising or scholarships.

 What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Never settle. Always push yourself to do your best.

 Favorite movie quote:

"Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people don't just shoot their husbands." – “Legally Blonde“

 Pet peeve:

Dirty dishes in the sink.

 App you can’t live without:

Instagram. I love pictures and being able to keep up with friends who I don't get to speak with very often.