Tara Dale

Seventh-grade science teacher Tara Dale walks and chats with students on the way to lunch at Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School classroom on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013.

David Jolkovski/AFN

I have experienced the Kyrene School District from many different aspects for the past 26 years. I was once a Kyrene kid and today I am a Kyrene parent and a Kyrene teacher. I proudly teach seventh-grade science at Akimel A-al Middle School. I have always been a Kyrene fan, but my loyalty and trust in the district has been strengthened immensely during this last school year. In November I was honored by the Arizona Educational Foundation when they named me one of their Educators for Excellence. In this role I have visited several districts around the state and met many teachers, administrators and parent leaders. The common theme when I meet someone new is how wonderful a district Kyrene is.

The Kyrene School District has an excellent reputation throughout the state. Everyone I met, without exception, smiled and exclaimed with glee when I mentioned that I worked in Kyrene. Nearly everyone had a story about a child’s success in a Kyrene school. I learned that we reach far behind our city limits. One mother drives her child from Laveen all the way to one of our schools every morning and then drives him back home every afternoon. She explained the travel time is a small price to pay for the top-notch education her son is receiving by attending his Kyrene school.

I also spent some time in a rural district, which reminded me of the simple reasons it’s good to work in Kyrene. This rural district does not have snow days, but instead has mud days. When it rains, their busses can’t drive in the muddy roads so school is cancelled. About once a month, the schools are without electricity for an entire week. I can’t imagine teaching kids without having access to lights, air conditioning/heat, the Internet, laptops/iPads, email, and, most importantly, my projector. Kyrene schools are well maintained and when an emergency occurs, like the terrible wind storm in August 2013, we have the necessary emergency funding to make things right again. It’s the simple things that we may normally take for granted that I hope we’ll all appreciate.

I am extremely lucky to work for a school district who values my opinions and includes me in the decision-making process. There are teachers on every one of Kyrene’s district committees, which I thought was standard because, after all, our district makes such a conscience effort to include teachers. But recently, I found out that it is extremely rare for school districts to include their teachers. In March, I was in a training class with 14 other Arizona school districts. I was the only teacher in the room that knew about new legislation that affects how we receive our bonuses at the end of the year. The ironic thing is that this new legislation requires the school districts to obtain a vote of “Yes” from at least 70 percent of the eligible teachers, which means the districts are required to involve the teachers. So here we are with a legal requirement and I was the only teacher among nearly 50 who was aware of the change. And this became the norm as I began meeting more teachers around the state. Kyrene seems to be one of the most teacher-engaging districts in the state based on the many teachers I interacted with recently.

I know my students and my own two children are in the best school district in the state of Arizona. Kyrene respects its teachers, takes care of its kids, and stands up for its values. When we come to a crossroads and aren’t sure about the direction to take, we all ask, “What is best for kids?” This immediately grounds us because it keeps us focused on what is most important: our students … our kids. We do this work because we believe in the power of a child’s education and we love our children. We are a student-centric district that makes decisions that empower our students and support our families. I am proud to be a Kyrene mom. I am honored to be a Kyrene teacher.

• Tara Dale is a proud Kyrene parent and seventh-grade science teacher at Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School.

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