PHOENIX — Students are not the only ones gearing up for a new school year. Some of the first graduates of the Arizona Teachers Academy are also heading back to class. The program launched in 2017 as a way to keep teachers in state and out of debt.
Miranda Dalton did not always plan to be a teacher.
"I didn't pursue the career right off," said Dalton. "I was always warned of the trade by family members, other teachers."
However when Dalton's undergraduate degree in Biology from Arizona State University left her wanting more, she pursued a master's degree in Secondary Education through the Arizona Teachers Academy, or ATA.
"I really felt like I could make a difference to the students and the system," said Dalton.
Students at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University are also eligible for the year-for-year tuition scholarship so long as they agree to teach in an Arizona public school after graduation.
"My last semester was completely covered," said Dalton.
Since launching in 2017, enrollment numbers for ATA appear to be on track with their projections. A June report from the Arizona Board of Regents shows 221 students from all three public universities enrolled for the 2017-2018 school year. That number more than doubled in 2018-2019 to 464, putting 120 teachers in Arizona public schools.
"This past academic school year we actually had our first increase in undergraduate students, first-time freshmen and transfers in over three years," said Karina Cuamea, the assistant director for undergraduate recruitment for the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU.
Dalton is now entering her second year. She is teaching seventh and eighth grade Algebra at Rhodes Junior High in Mesa. She admits some days are really tough but says she plans on staying in state for the foreseeable future.
"If you would have had this interview in May I would have told you absolutely, I'm on the first train out," said Dalton. "I was an Arizona student and they need an equal access to opportunity as everybody else throughout the country so I come in and try to give my best every day despite what the headlines might discourage."
Enrollment numbers for the 2019-2020 academic year will not be out until after classes begin later this month.