Michele Lucas went through Kyrene elementary and middle schools as a young girl and now teaches for the district.
Lauren Clark/Kyrene School District

Some people never get over their early years at school.

Just ask nine of the 100 or so Kyrene teachers who started working in district schools this month.

They attended Kyrene schools as kids. Indeed, three of the nine are teaching at the same schools they attended as students.

Those nine teachers aren’t the only ones whose paychecks are now paid by the district that played such an important role in their formative years.

“We have about 100 overall employees who work here and were educated here,” Kyrene spokeswoman Nancy Dudenhoefer said.

Earlier this month, the nine teachers and their 91 colleagues attended a multi-day orientation program organized by the Kyrene Education Association and Kyrene Business and Community Development office along with district sponsors.

“As new employees, they learn how various departments will support their work as teachers, observe mock classroom teaching practices and receive important school site information,” Dudenhoefer said.

Each teacher received a $50 Target gift card from the Kyrene Foundation to welcome them. School supplies and other donated items were provided by local sponsors, including Realtors Diana Keller, Carly Gibbs and Pattie Agnew with Keller Williams Realtor Group, Grand Canyon University, Papa John’s, Stratum Laser Tag, P.F. Chang’s and BR Fitness.

The nine teachers and their workplaces are Alexis Lupercio, Mirada Elementary; Lauren Scott, who shares her time between Kyrene Traditional Academy, Norte and Waggoner; Kaitlin Blay, Manitas; Michele Lucas and Taylor Soggie, Pueblo; Sarah Rees, Mariposa; Esperanza Gonzalez, Norte; Brittney Bazuin, Kyrene Middle School; and Ashley Lindsay, Colina.

Blay, a special education resource teacher for third-fifth grades at Manitas, said the orientation “was nothing like I had ever experienced before.”

“I felt like I had been part of the Kyrene team for years already,” she said.

In some ways, she was on a different Kyrene team as a kid: she was a student at Cielo Elementary and Apprende Middle School.

A teacher for four years at Scottsdale Unified School District, she signed up with her district alma mater because “I had heard from others how well Kyrene takes care of their teachers and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. It has been a dream of mine to be a teacher in the district I grew up in.

“I have heard so many great things about working in the Kyrene School District and I knew it was time for a change,” Blay added.

Michelle Lucas, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Pueblo, attended Norte Elementary and Kyrene Middle School praised the district’s treatment of new employees.

“I have never attended a new teacher orientation that was as thorough as this,” she said. “Kyrene is amazing in their offerings and delivery of staff development. I actually took advantage of a few trainings at the district office this summer.”  

“We received trainings on how to use the technology we’re expected to access throughout the year and breakout sessions that were relevant to our level (elementary or middle school) and our content,” she said.

“I was so very impressed,” she added, saying her welcome made her feel “completely respected and valued as a new employee.”

“The trainings were valuable and allowed us time to network with other new teachers,” Lucas said. “I felt like I immediately had contacts and resources available to me.”

A Corona High School graduate, Lucas worked 18 years for the Tempe Union High School District, teaching at Tempe High for five years and Desert Vista High for 13 before taking four years off to be a stay-at-home mom.

“I chose Kyrene because my children attend Kyrene schools,” said Lucas, whose son is in second grade at Paloma Elementary and daughter is a seventh-grader at Pueblo.

“As a parent, I loved the district and education they were receiving,” added Lucas, who returned to work last spring as a math assistant at Paloma.

She jumped at the chance to become a seventh-grade teacher.

“I loved working with the younger kids and realized that I truly missed teaching,” she explained. “I was excited to see an opening for a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Pueblo because I was impressed with the district as an employee and knew that if/when I returned to teaching, that I’d want to stay in Kyrene.”


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