Passion drives Arizona K12 Center’s executive director.It’s unmistakable—Kathy Wiebke, Ph.D., NBCT, Executive Director of the Arizona K12 Center, is an educational visionary. Once called the Harriet Tubman of the profession by a peer, Dr. Wiebke continues to inspire educators and friends in the fie

Aug 03, 2015

Passion drives Arizona K12 Center’s executive director.

It’s unmistakable—Kathy Wiebke, Ph.D., NBCT, Executive Director of the Arizona K12 Center, is an educational visionary. Once called the Harriet Tubman of the profession by a peer, Dr. Wiebke continues to inspire educators and friends in the field.

Penny Kotterman is the former Director of Program and Policy for the Arizona K12 Center and current Director of State and District Strategy and Outreach at The College Board. The educational advocate explains she’s known Wiebke since she was a classroom teacher.

“We have a long history and friendship that goes way beyond her work at the Center. Kathy has always been one of the most passionate educators I’ve ever known,” Kotterman said. “She keeps the profession at the center of her thinking because she knows that really good teachers make a big difference in kids’ lives.”

The longtime educator and Arizona native admits passion is the driving force behind her hard work. While her official job description might include welcoming guests and giving speeches at Arizona K12 Center events, it probably fails to detail the long hours, busy travel schedule, and challenging decisions surrounding the Center’s budget.

“I know what we can provide here at the Arizona K12 Center, but just like a lot of things in life, what I know we can provide and do far exceeds the budget that we have. That’s where it becomes complex and difficult,” Wiebke said.

Although she claims parts of her job are challenging, she remains passionate about the work because she thrives on helping others.

“I stay enthusiastic because as much as I love kids, I love teachers,” she explained. “Teachers give kids opportunities in life. If we all do our jobs well, they will graduate from our school system with lots of choices. They’re not pigeonholed into one thing.”

When she’s not responding to emails with precision and detail, hopping planes and making executive decisions, Wiebke said she loves to cook, read and travel.

“I have just about every cooking magazine that’s ever been published. I also love to read and visit new places. I don’t get to either enough,” she explained.

When asked, “Who is Kathy Wiebke, the woman behind the educational professional?,” it forced her to pause.

“It’s hard to answer that question on one level because I’ve spent a lifetime in education and it really is what moves me. It’s who I am. I’ve had incredible opportunities over the years and I want others to have them too,” she said.

In November 2014, Wiebke traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in her final National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Board of Directors meeting. As the first National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) in the state of Arizona, she was an integral board member for seven years. Ron Thorpe, the NBPTS President and CEO, explains Wiebke’s influence on education is unparalleled.

“Kathy Wiebke’s commitment to the profession and to extending the opportunity of National Board Certification to every Arizona teacher is unmatched. The fact that today, Arizona has more than 1,000 Board-certified teachers is a testament to her dedication and the strong candidate support program she built from the ground up at the Arizona K12 Center,” Thorpe explained.

“In addition to leading a NBCT network, she has been a vital member of our Board of Directors, guiding our work to mobilize NBCTs across the country. Now that her term on the Board is ending, we look forward to continuing working with her to help spread the best practices she developed at the Center to benefit the rest of the field.”

As she turns a new page, she leaves a bookmark in the National Board chapter for accessibility. In Arizona, Wiebke and the staff at the Arizona K12 Center are working to increase the number of NBCTs in Arizona, in addition to the other work surrounding leadership, learning and technology.

Regardless of the task or initiative, one thing is clear: Wiebke commits herself to excellence in teaching and learning and encourages others to celebrate the teaching profession. This commitment, combined with her past experiences, has helped create the vision for the Center’s annual Celebration of Accomplished Teaching.

Each year, the Arizona K12 Center hosts a dinner event to recognize Arizona's accomplished educators to honor the state’s newest NBCTs and Master Teachers.

“I remember when I won Disney’s American Teacher of the Year award, they made a huge deal of it with parties, dinners and a red carpet. I thought every teacher should be made to feel like this for one moment in his or her lifetime,” she explained. “I’ve taken the experiences that I’ve had, and tried to embed them in the things we do here.”

Cheryl Bokowski, Arizona K12 Center Director of Operations, believes Wiebke accomplished that goal. “Since 2005, she has created a Center that values teachers and the profession … a place that teachers call home,” said Bokowski. “As we celebrate the Arizona K12 Center’s 15th anniversary this year, we take a moment to reflect on all that we have accomplished. I’m excited to see where Kathy’s grand vision will take us in the next 15 years.”

Get to know Wiebke and the staff members at the Arizona K12 Center here.

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