Embracing challenges: The Arizona Teacher Partnership

During the summer time, teachers actively reflect on their practice and answer Sheryl Sandberg’s question, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” In the case of many teachers across the country the answer has come in some new forms recerntly; for example, they are protesting and walking out in several states, including our own state of  Arizona, and many teachers are running for public office. The problems and contexts for these bold, new actions vary, but teachers across the country are putting their foot down and saying enough is enough. Here’s the aspect we find most inspiring: not only are teachers highlighting the present problems, but we are also  taking it upon ourselves to be an active part of the solution.

Arizona, like many other states, is facing an ever-present and growing problem of low teacher recruitment and retention. According to the ASPAA, by December 2017, there were 5,371 Arizona classrooms without certified teachers.

Nationally, 46% of teachers are leaving the classroom within the first five years of beginning their teaching career (Educator Recruitment & Retention Taskforce). Survey after survey, like the one done by We Are Teachers, indicates that one of the top five reasons teachers leave the profession is because they lack support.

Three years ago, while discussing the implications of this data, we considered our own answer to the question: What would we do if we weren’t afraid? Despite recognizing the scope and scale of Arizona’s teacher retention problem, we chose to put our fear aside and create a solution. We created a program called the Arizona Teacher Partnership designed to support new-to-the-profession teachers. Grouped into collaborative cohorts, and led by teacher-leaders from around the state, we discuss research-based teaching strategies that help new teachers implement Arizona’s college and career ready standards. New teachers have the opportunity to try new things with the support of other teachers; no one is alone and everyone is supported.

Even now, entering into the summer months, we have 6 cohorts with more than 30 teachers from around Arizona working together to support one another, and grow within the profession. It’s our belief that if teachers are given professional development to ensure their effectiveness and increase their job satisfaction, we will have more certified teachers in the classroom than we do today. The Arizona Teacher Partnership supports new teachers by providing a safe place to learn, research, and problem solve.

The challenges we face as educators are broad and diverse; whether the actions you choose to take are big or small in scale, it’s our hope that everyone embraces the growing momentum empowering teachers to action and not be afraid to dream big: “So please ask yourself: what would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go do it.”

What is your school/district doing to support and retain new teachers? Please comment below with your ideas.


Dayna Burke is a first grade teacher in Sahuarita, Arizona.