“Innovation is willingness to try something different. The end goal is student success.”

By

Erik Ketcherside

Alejandro “Alex” Vasquez will earn his Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership this spring after completing the iLeadAZ Principal Preparation Pathway. Born and raised in Queens, Alex graduated from City University of New York, Queens College in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, a focus on American politics and a history minor. He earned a master’s degree in political science at the CUNY Graduate Center before returning to Queens College for a post-baccalaureate program to be a secondary education social studies teacher. Alex is earning his MEd while teaching in the Kyrene School District. This is Alex’s career story in his words:

My first teaching job was in Arizona, in 2010, teaching 8th grade social studies in Tolleson. I taught there for three years before moving to my current job as an 8th grade social studies teacher. I’ve been with Kyrene four years.

I was first motivated to be an educator because of my love of history, social studies and government. I wanted a job where I could discuss topics that interest me and hopefully instill some of that passion into students. My motivation has shifted since then to wanting to see all students succeed and be ready to be global citizens. Too many of our students fall through the cracks and don’t receive an equitable and excellent education.

As a teacher, I accepted leadership roles as they came, putting me in a position to work closely with other teachers to help them improve their craft and ultimately impact students in a positive way. I want to continue that work as a future principal. I chose the MEd and iLeadAZ path because it puts me in a position to impact the greatest amount of students.

The program is a hybrid; half our classes are online and the other half are in person. I chose the hybrid program because I wanted to be part of a cohort and a learning community, interacting with professors and cohort members and building meaningful relationships as we tackle the many challenges in our education system. iLeadAZ is run by amazing professors with stellar credentials in the field of education — former principals and superintendents who bring a wealth of knowledge to our classrooms. The program also requires students to complete 270 internship hours, and really sets us up for success as future school leaders. It prepared me so well, I secured a job as an administrator at my school for the next school year.

Leadership is about facilitating an environment where people’s ideas are welcomed and considered — bringing people and ideas together in a sincere effort to build genuine relationships around a common vision. Our education system is a large institution with many different parents. But a shared mission and vision of student success helps tear down some of those institutional barriers. Roles are important within an institution, but shared goals and collaboration are even more important. In the MEd program we’re taught to include stakeholders, create a common vision and mission, and work collectively to achieve those goals.

The most challenging issues in education today are gaps in achievement and disproportionality in discipline. Our students of color are not receiving an equitable education and are being suspended at alarming rates. As educators, we need to have an honest, courageous conversation about why these things are happening at our schools and establish a team approach that includes parents, students, community and teachers to work through this.

Bringing about innovation in education means being willing to try something different. The end goal is always the same: student success. But the way we go about it needs to be constantly reconceptualized. The MEd program prepares us to be transformative school leaders who will do whatever necessary to ensure the success of all students. I want students leaving my school feeling as though they were cared for, safe and appreciated as individuals, with the skills necessary to tackle future challenges.

Are you an educator in metropolitan Phoenix, ready to take your leadership to the next level? The iLeadAZ Principal Preparation Pathway will enable you to become a transformative school administrator or teacher leader.