What’s in my desk drawer? Heather Villarruel takes out her most valuable advice


Meghan Krein

Heather Villarruel

Heather Villarruel has her hands full and a lot on her desk. The iTeachAZ Coordinator and ASU faculty member, sat down with us to talk about how she stays true to her craft, what makes a good mentor teacher and her fuel for life.

You’re in the unique position of seeing our teacher candidates through their teaching experience, and then seeing some of those same students hired as teachers in your district. What can you tell them to be prepared for in the first few years after their first year of teaching — after the “honeymoon” has worn off?

Remember to never lose focus on what brought you into teaching. Your goal is to positively affect children. Many factors can make you lose focus. Keep a smile and an open mind, and stay true to refining your craft by engaging in cycles of reflection.

What is a mentor teacher and what makes a good one?

Mentor teachers mentor student teachers, meaning they host student teachers or interns in their classrooms and assist them. In turn, mentors receive a certificate of professional development clock hours that can be used toward state recertification. Additionally, student teaching mentors receive a three-to-six credit tuition waiver good for in-state tuition.

Mentor teachers are valuable because they model high levels of professionalism, implement research-based teaching strategies that positively influence overall student achievement, and have people skills that enable them to effectively coach others.

If you were talking to a group of current teachers and administrators in your district, how would you describe to them the teacher candidates coming through our programs? What can they expect from our graduates?

iTeachAZ develops highly effective and reflective teachers who make instructional decisions based on student needs, local and state data, and research-based best practices. Within the program, our teacher candidates are evaluated on their lesson design and delivery using the TAP Instructional Rubric (The System for Teacher and Student Advancement) and provided ongoing feedback to refine their practice. iTeachAZ graduates demonstrate extensive content knowledge and professionalism, and are embedded in their communities and district.

Are there any tidbits of information or helpful suggestions "For Educators" you could share?

Keep an open-door policy! Teaching is not meant for you to do alone. Let others in, listen, reflect, refine and keep a student focus. We are in this for the children! Ask yourself each day, how did I positively affect a child today? This is your true fuel for life.