NAU graduate Daniela Robles found her home being surrounded by teachers, both getting and offering support, and mentoring and encouraging her peers. As executive director of NAU’s Arizona K12 Center, that’s now her whole job—helping ensure Arizona’s teachers have what they need to succeed in the classroom. Learn more about the center, how Robles found her path in education and how she likes to spend her down time.
What brought you to NAU?
As a graduate of NAU, there has been a Lumberjack in me for a long while. In 2022, I joined the Arizona K12 Center as the assistant director of programs. The opportunity to lead the center presented itself last year, and I eagerly pursued that opportunity. I have served as the center’s executive director since March.
How did you get involved in education?
For a long while, I fought against a career in education. Both of my parents were teachers. This fact naturally caused me to proclaim that I would not follow the same path. But during my sophomore year of college, I was required to complete service hours. I volunteered at the school where my mom served as principal. Quickly, my one-hour weekly commitment turned into two, then three hours. While I loved being with students, I felt complete when I was surrounded by teachers. And from that point forward, the trajectory of my life’s work was paved in education.
What is the Arizona K12 Center?
The Arizona K12 Center is part of NAU’s College of Education. We were founded by Gov. Jane Hull in 1999 with the purpose of providing professional learning for Arizona teachers. We do that today through professional learning events, National Board Certification support, mentoring and induction programs for new teachers and a variety of other avenues.
How have you seen the center’s work contributing to the state of education in Arizona?
As an educator for the last 26 years, for me, the center served as the place to advance my knowledge and skills—be it learning how to become an instructional coach, an instructional mentor, a teacher leader or a National Board Certified Teacher, the Arizona K12 Center was my professional home. My story is similar to educators across the state.
Today the state is faced with unprecedented challenges in education. The center has solutions to address these challenges, specifically teacher retention. As identified in the Governor’s Educator Retention Task Force Research and Analysis Report, National Board Certification, induction and mentoring and teacher leadership are identified as necessary approaches to address teacher retention. The work of the center is essential to the state of education in Arizona.
Tell me about a significant childhood memory and how it has impacted your life today.
In the third grade, my mom observed in my classroom. That afternoon she withdrew me from that school because the math instruction was subpar. I started attending school where she served as the assistant principal. Each day, I traveled across town and back, spending hours in the car, in the pursuit of excellent teaching and learning.
Such an experience instilled in me the unwavering conviction that as an educational system, we have the awesome responsibility to ensure each student meets or exceeds grade-level standards/expectations. Throughout my life’s work, you can pinpoint multiple points in time where this belief rightfully challenged the status quo and advanced the system I served. I have a low tolerance for individuals in a system that are comfortable with current outcomes. There is always space for refinement and improvement.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
During my childhood, I thought being a pediatrician would be my profession.
What have you been most proud of recently?
Most recently, my daughter, a sophomore in college, earned a 4.0 this past semester which filled me with pride.
What is your favorite way to spend a day off?
I’m either going 110 miles an hour or zero. Having a day where I do not need to be anywhere or complete any tasks is a lovely way to spend a day. Add a great movie like Rustin or Equalizer 3, a comfy couch and my pups and I have achieved total enjoyment.
What are three things on your bucket list?
Call me weird, but I don’t have a bucket list. I also never mapped out my life with milestones to achieve by a particular age. I suppose I might consider a bucket titled “Joy.” The things that I engage in should bring me or those I care about joy. The fun with this concept is that what brings me joy today may be different in two months or three years. Life is change.