Centered

Executive Director Dr. Kathy Wiebke, NBCT, announces the five Arizona teacher leaders whose stories will be highlighted at this summer's Teacher Leadership Institute.

Apr 15, 2021

I am not sure anything tops the joy of teaching children but my current job certainly does come in at a very close second. 

I have been the Executive Director of the Arizona K12 Center for 16 years. Not really knowing what we would become, I knew in my heart that, given the time and space, we could create an extraordinary place for teachers. What I didn’t fully comprehend is how fun and rewarding it would be.

In the last sixteen years, I have traversed this state many times. As someone born and raised in this great state, it wasn’t until I was in this job that I really got to see the state. From the majestic sandstone buttes of Monument Valley and Canyon De Chelly to mining towns of Bisbee and Mammoth-San Manuel; from the barrios of Tucson and Nogales to the pines of Prescott and Flagstaff; from the border towns of Palominas, Douglas, and Somerton to the small towns of Safford, Strawberry, and Beaver Dam, I have seen first-hand the beauty and diversity of Arizona’s schools, students, and teachers.

I have been in school districts with a total of seven employees to large, urban districts with over 10,000 teachers. At the core of each of these schools are some incredible teachers working to make a difference in the lives of their students and community.

Every summer, we bring teacher leaders together to share their stories at the annual Teacher Leadership Institute. It has been my long-held belief that when we meet and get to know others, we see the possibilities in ourselves. This summer is no different. Let me introduce you to some teacher leaders doing some extraordinary work related to this year’s Teacher Leadership Institute theme of curiosity and leadership:

Adrian Alvarez, a middle school science teacher who works in the Grand Canyon Unified School District.

Adrian’s focus on place-based learning flows into the idea of justice-focused phenomena, which asks questions of how we approach the space around us. For her and her students, that means asking questions about the impacts of mining in their area on the environment and community.


Estevan Carreon, a special education teacher in the Glendale Union High School District and veteran of the U.S. Navy.

Estevan works with high school students who have emotional disabilities and emotional disorders. He has been instrumental in developing programs that support the social and emotional growth of students at his high school and beyond.


Sarah Garcia, a high school English teacher at Ganado High School in Ganado, Arizona, located on the Navajo Nation.

Sarah has overcome a variety of challenges in her own journey through school and college and is upfront and honest with her students about advocating for one’s self and overcoming struggle. Relationships are at the core of her practice, along with showing her students that there are no limits to who they can become and what they can do.


Jillian Hernandez, a fifth-grade teacher at Puente de Hózhó Elementary School, a trilingual school in the Flagstaff Unified School District, where every student participates in the Navajo Immersion Language Program or the Spanish-English Bilingual Program.

She works to authentically incorporate justice work into her classroom by helping students recognize their identities and roles as change agents.


Kimberly May, a fourth-grade teacher at Copper Basin K-8 School in Florence Unified School District.

Kimberly worked in school and district administration for over 10 years before returning to the classroom as a third-grade teacher. Always looking for the best ways to support her students, she wondered what a difference it may make to continue to teach her third-grade students in fourth grade and looped to the new grade with her same students. She has seen great growth, especially in the midst of the uncertainties of the pandemic and has further pushed herself to try more strategies to keep things fresh.


Meeting these teachers and hearing their stories serve as an inspiration to me and the work of the Arizona K12 Center. All too often we see leadership as a position, like many others, these teachers are leading from inside their classrooms. Join us at our 16th Annual Teacher Leadership Institute: Where Curiosity and Leadership Unite to meet these teachers and hear their stories first-hand.

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