GCU Alum Grows Young Readers at Elementary School in Glendale
By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau
The students at Glenn F. Burton Elementary School know the “’Lopes Up” hand signal. They’ve got their share of GCU T-shirts, backpacks, Frisbees, pencils and notebooks.
But their most valuable Grand Canyon University product?
That would be Anthony Perez.
Perez, who received his master’s in education from GCU in 2011, is finishing up his first year as a second-grade English Language Development (ELD) teacher at Burton Elementary in Glendale.
“Anthony has done an amazing job for us,” said Holly Northcott, principal at Burton Elementary. “We were very fortunate to get him.”
This is National Teacher Appreciation Week, but Northcott’s praise goes beyond “appreciation.” Consider the following:
When Perez started teaching in August, only six of his 23 students could read at or above their grade level. Today, that number is 19.
“That’s pretty much unheard of,” Northcott said. “The most we usually have is half of a classroom, maybe 12 or 13.”
The goal, Perez said, is to get as many of his students as possible reclassified so that they don’t have to take ELD classes.
“I think that was the first or second-most kids in the (Glendale school) district that we were able to reclassify,” Perez said. “This was a very, very successful year.”
Others are noticing.
Perez was honored at a banquet Wednesday night as one of the rookie teachers of the year in the Glendale district. He also served on the English Language Development Committee for the district – the only first-year teacher who was asked.
“He is all about wanting to make sure he is delivering the information and designing the lessons according to each student’s needs and learning styles,” said Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick, executive director of outreach for GCU’s College of Education.
That involves working in conjunction with other teachers and parents and using technology that kids can relate to.
“I went to his class one time and all of a sudden on a Smart Board there is SpongeBob talking about parts of speech or something,” Gilpatrick said. “He makes it relevant for them.
“It’s phenomenal what he’s been able to do.”
Perez credits much of that to his education at GCU and the mentoring program of the Rodel Foundation of Arizona.
As a student at GCU, Perez was named a Rodel Promising Teacher. These are “the best of the best,” Gilpatrick said, and they are mentored by a Rodel Exemplary Teacher in high-needs areas. Perez teamed up as a student-teacher with Raquel Mendoza at Burton Elementary, a partnership that eventually led to Perez landing a full-time job there after graduation.
“I was very fortunate,” Perez said. “Some of the students I have now, I had their siblings when I was a student teacher. I already knew their families. It was a perfect fit.”
Perez, who got his undergraduate degree from Arizona State University before attending GCU, bleeds purple when it comes to being an alum.
“I still have allegiances to ASU, but it’s greater with GCU,” Perez said. “I really liked the program at Grand Canyon. Everybody was accessible. It just seemed more personal.”
For College Day at Burton Elementary, Perez wore his GCU cap and gown. GCU’s community outreach manager, Jose Moreno, served as an emcee and ‘Lopes mascot Thunder entertained the kids while passing out GCU merchandise.
“They were great,” said Perez, who wants to get his school involved in the ‘Lopes for Literacy program. “Everybody is already asking if I can get them again next year.”
Perez, 30, worked in the banking industry for a few years after graduating from ASU and spent the last seven years working in human resources for the Phoenix Union High School District. But it wasn’t his calling.
“I just thought that it was really important to find a way to contribute to society, and this was a way to have the greatest impact,” Perez said of becoming a teacher. “I’ve worked in a school district, so I saw the good, the bad and the ugly. I saw what ineffective teachers do.
“I’d like to think I am a successful teacher and that I can make a difference.”
Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.