A teacher’s impact

NAU student teaches in kindergarten classroom

Did you know NAU started as a school to educate teachers? The Class of 1901 was comprised of four women, all of whom received lifetime teaching certificates for the Arizona Territory. Learn more about NAU’s history at Cline Library’s Special Collections and Archives.

More than 120 years later, NAU continues to produce highly qualified teachers (although the graduating classes now have a few more than four people!). Many of our aspiring teachers in the College of Education entered the field in some part because of an influential teacher in their lives. For World Teachers’ Day on Oct. 5, NAU education students talked to The NAU Review about their favorite teachers.

Jamie Bellian head shotJamie Bellian, a master’s student in special education (mild/moderate) from Phoenix

  • My favorite teacher was Mr. David Foster, at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, circa early 2000s.  He taught AP American History. In 2002, he was doing multimodal lessons, providing choice in how we demonstrated mastery, and made things as collaborative as possible. This was before UDL had traction and when every single teacher I had ever had before was a traditional lecture & take notes—classic, yet ineffective style of teacher. I’ve also been in education since 2008 and have seen what most AP history teachers’ curriculum looks like—and it has further emphasized what he did was a testament to who he was as a teacher, given what he did with that curriculum yet we all still got at least 3s on our AP test. I was also a handful—either talking incessantly or sleeping through much of high school. I worked multiple jobs to chip in at home and spent all of high school utterly exhausted, but I never remember ever getting in trouble in his class. The social aspect of his class and his lessons kept me engaged more than any other teacher, which is why, besides my speech coach, he is the only high school teacher I didn’t hesitate to name when the directions here said first and last name. I remember our decades projects and the wide variety of assignments he created, which is what inspired me to be a poli sci major in college and get involved in politics afterward. He probably won’t see this, but thank you, Mr. Foster. I hope you’d be happy to know 20 years later I am still friends with that pack of boys I rolled with in high school, and even the ones who we wrapped up in saran wrap to be condoms in our 1960s video are doing excellent—we all turned out to be doctors, lawyers … and one of us became a teacher. 🙂

Abigail Ryan, an elementary education student from MesaSelfie of Abigail Ryan with her teacher, Lindsay Decoste, at graduation

  • The teacher I picked for this is Mrs. Lindsay Decoste from Red Mountain High School. She was my choir teacher for all four years of high school, and she taught me almost everything I know about singing along with guiding me to being the person I am today. I really enjoyed that Mrs. D was always encouraging and supportive, even when I was bad at something. She was a teacher I could always count on, whether it was just to bring a smile to my face, make me laugh on a bad day or be that one genuine person I needed to listen to me. D made me feel so confident in myself and my abilities, inside and outside of choir. So really, I just liked who she is as a person, which made her an even better teacher, and I don’t think I could have made it through those four years without her. I have a million pictures with her over the years, but this graduation selfie just concludes how genuinely happy I felt around her and in her classes.

Cody Juarez Lopez, a secondary education-history student from PhoenixSelfie of Cody Juarez Lop and Frank Deering in a car

  • My favorite teacher was Frank Deering, a middle school science teacher. I liked Frank as he was a father figure to me as my father was not there for me for all of middle school. He made sure I passed and behaved. After eighth grade, I visited him in my senior year, and he was very happy to see me. I did visit him again and I helped him tidy things out and as a thanks for helping him out, he bought me some In-N-Out. I also invited him to my high school graduation so that he could see that the middle schooler that he has come to know is now a grown young man who is ready to take on any challenge. This is how strong our relationship is, and I even told him how much of an impact he had on me. His response was that he was very happy that he read those words and that he wished me the best of luck in college. Some of the things that I told him was that he was the main reason that I wanted to become a teacher and that he was also the reason that I wanted to go to NAU, he was also a graduate of NAU. This whole paragraph sums up how he is my favorite teacher ever, and I am very lucky that he was my teacher.

José Luis Cruz Rivera, President of Northern Arizona University

NAU Communications