GCU graduates become neighborhood teachers
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Weylin Pada was unsure where he would find employment only a month before his April graduation. Then he got an email from one of his professors, Dr. Jim Mostofo, who told him of a perfect solution.
Turns out, that employer has been a good fit for many Grand Canyon University graduates.
Pada landed an interview at neighboring Empower College Prep the week before graduation and was offered a job just a couple of weeks after earning his degree in Mathematics for Secondary Education.
He joins five other GCU graduates employed at the K-12 charter school just across the freeway, which has continued to grow in its partnership with the University. It was the subject of this GCU Today story last fall.
During Pada’s interview, he said he was asked questions by GCU graduate and current Empower math teacher Claire Lee.
“She’ll be a teacher I’m working with. Just having GCU graduates at the school is pretty cool. We talked about the professors we both had,” Pada said.
He watched Lee teach a classroom exercise that he knew she gleaned from a GCU professor’s class and felt right at home.
Also, Mostofo mentors math teachers at Empower and will be working with Pada as he starts his career.
“A lot of my student teaching was online, so having a mentor teacher will help me in my teaching,” he said.
In addition to Lee and Pada in the math department, Empower has hired GCU graduates Kassidy Grammer and Chloe Van Der Eyk in history, Zoe Burk for kindergarten and Angela Ortega as a grants and finance manager.
Mostofo said he often recruits GCU grads to get in touch with Empower founder and Executive Director Brian Holman.
“They are technically very sound,” Holman said of GCU products. “Additionally, there is a worldview match. There’s a passion for serving developing communities, truly empowering them, not seeing them as victims but seeing them as talented people who are going to be empowered to make the world a better place.”
Empower is a beacon to many economically challenged students and families in the neighborhood. In eight years, it has grown from a few dozen students to 875 last year and has 150 new students registered for the fall.
Its service to the community is similar to GCU’s mission, and the partnership has grown through consultation from GCU President Brian Mueller and associations with K12 Educational Development and College of Education teaching mentors and students.
One of its principal goals is to prepare students for a college education and a career to benefit their communities.
“The partnership with GCU is providing some real support making that happen, with student teachers and student volunteers in the room working with kids online or in small groups – just providing additional support to pour life into our kids,” Holman said.
He hopes his students see GCU as an option to attend or vie for scholarships.
“We hope there is a growing number of students that realize that college is real. If they are scared to go far away, there is an excellent university right here. I can touch it, feel it, visit it,” Holman said.
Holman said he looks to grow the partnership in the coming year, supporting families even before school age with programs such as GCU’s effort at Empower distributing USDA Farmers to Families Food Boxes, and through their high school and college educations.
He calls it a pre-K to career pipeline.
A common commitment to the neighborhood and serving students, many of whom are economically challenged, are big reasons why GCU and Empower work well together, said Dr. Jennifer Johnson, Assistant Vice President for Academic Alliances at GCU.
“This is our first charter school that we have partnered with to this extent,” she said. “As a part of the Canyon Corridor, we have appreciated that partnership and look forward to enhancing it in the future.”
No one is happier about that than Pada.
He already has started teaching summer school courses and is utilizing the skills he learned at GCU on breaking down content, finally able to teach it in person with a big white board behind him so he can go crazy with numbers.
“I had a high school teacher I looked up to. He was super smart and knew the content well but could go off on tangents that I would find fascinating,” Pada said.
“Now here I am with a teaching job. I just want to be that teacher they can look to and remember after high school.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
GCU Today: Neighborhood school empowered by GCU