Front (from left): Melissa Vorbeck, Cathy Clayton, Julie Gale, Michele Queen, Nathania Vanderham, Leticia Cazares, Melissa Lillie and Catherine Bolognini. Back: Mylynda Koener and Becky Giesler.
In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, Grand Canyon University showed its appreciation to a group of Phoenix-area teachers by springing for their caps and gowns for graduation.
Ten teachers from a ground-campus master’s degree cohort of 12 participated in Friday’s College of Education convocation at Bethany Bible Church and Saturday’s commencement ceremony at Chase Field. They also received gift bags from the University.
For 10 months, the group met faithfully on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. In order to remain a ground cohort, eight needed to stay in. All 12 did.
“We learned to rely on each other,” said Becky Giesler, a sixth-grade teacher at Western Valley Middle School in the Fowler Elementary School District. “We all live here, and we have the support right here. It was really successful.”
Perhaps no one needed that support more than Melissa Lillie, a Paradise Valley mother of four who required the extra coursework to retain her teaching certificate.
“There was a day or two when I would hit my head against the computer, crying,” Lillie said jokingly. Her household includes three children age 7 or younger.
The group was flexible, meeting occasionally on weekends and carpooling to make schedules work. The members pitched in to cover for one another during peak times such as parent-teacher conferences.
“I’ve taken online classes from GCU, but I liked this better,” said Melissa Vorbeck, who teaches second-graders at Desert Horizon Elementary School in the Pendergast School District.
The group also included Julie Gale of the Fowler district; Leticia Cazares and Mylynda Koener of the Peoria district; Cathy Clayton, Michele Queen and Nathania Vanderham of the Deer Valley district; Catherine Bolognini of the Glendale Elementary district; Sue Dollinger of the Avondale Elementary district; and Shelly Brown.