Hall of Fame was teachable moment for Killingsworth

Editor's note: This story is reprinted from the April issue of GCU Magazine. To read the digital version of the magazine, click here.

By Ashlee Larrison
GCU Magazine

Theresa Killingsworth sat in the front row of the crowded Grand Canyon University Arena Hall, watching as the deans of each college took the stage to introduce their inductee into the GCU Hall of Fame.

It was a moment she never expected.

Theresa Killingsworth (left) and College of Education Dean Dr. Kimberly LaPrade have formed a special bond since Killingsworth's school, Westwood Elementary, became a GCU Academic Excellence site. (Photo by Gillian Rea)

But as her friend Dr. Kimberly LaPrade, Dean of the College of Education, took the microphone and introduced her to an audience of proud family, friends and faculty members, it became clear that it made perfect sense.

“As is true with all of our former inductees, it is very important to the College of Ed that we choose an educator who can stand as a role model for our future teachers,” LaPrade said. “And this year’s inductee, Theresa Killingsworth, is no exception.”

Killingsworth has been Principal of Westwood Elementary School, a GCU Academic Excellence Site, for 2 1/2 years. She has worked in the Alhambra Elementary School District for 20 years, also serving as a teacher and assistant principal.

Her master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from GCU in 2008 led to her roles as Assistant Principal at Sevilla West School, Principal of Granada Elementary school and Principal of Alhambra Traditional School before taking the Westwood job.

The GCU-Westwood partnership, which enables pre-service resident teachers from the College of Education to gain classroom experience before graduating, also resulted in the University and Habitat for Humanity creating a community garden on the campus.

GCU President Brian Mueller was among the volunteers when Westwood Elementary was the site of Serve the City in February.

The liaison all started in a meeting with GCU President Brian Mueller.

“When we finished our meeting, he said, ‘What can GCU do for you?’” Killingsworth recalled. “At that time, I talked to him about having some interns on our campus to help out in classrooms, and he didn’t even leave the parking lot yet and I had people calling me from GCU.

“It’s working great for the GCU students, but it’s also working great for our students here.” LaPrade credits Killingsworth for the success of the partnership, calling it “a testament to her leadership. She is that Christian woman leader that we want as a role model.”

In addition to having the opportunity to partner with Killingsworth, LaPrade also got to see a different side of her – as a mother.

Killingsworth takes a mission trip to the Dominican Republic every year with a team of teachers to help provide personal development to their teachers. On her first trip to the Dominican Republic, she met a 17-year-old aspiring teacher, Junior Reyes Almonte.

Mueller arranged for Almonte to receive a scholarship to GCU, fulfilling his dream of coming to America for college, and Killingsworth sponsored him.

Almonte graduated with a degree in Educational Studies in December 2019 and now works as a case manager, helping to reunite unaccompanied minors at the U.S.- Mexico border with their families.

Riley Winslow, one of three GCU students hired at Westwood full-time for this academic year, says she can't imagine life there without Killingsworth.

“He’s on a good path,” Killingsworth said with a smile.

Killingsworth also has made a positive impact on the schools she leads. She assisted in the transition of Granada Elementary from a C school to an A school and in growing Westwood, a previous K-3 school, into a K-5.

Riley Winslow has seen that impact firsthand. She did her student teaching at Westwood, and when three full-time positions opened unexpectedly and Killingsworth turned to GCU for help, Winslow was one of the new hires.

“When I got the call about the job, it was kind of like a step of faith for Theresa to even consider me for the position because I was brought up through word of mouth,” Winslow said. “To me, it was a really great thing that she did because she really kind of trusted who I was and trusted what people said about me, and I think that goes to show what kind of person Theresa is.

“I can’t imagine not having her in this process. Overall, I think I’ve been really lucky because she’s really shown that she wants me to succeed, and in return she wants her school to succeed.”

The fact that Killingsworth was sitting in that crowded ceremony being honored for her contributions to her district and her field did not surprise Winslow. But to Killingsworth, it was heartwarming to see how many of her fellow inductees were educators at one point in their careers.

“It was humbling,” she said. “That’s what GCU does – it grows servant leaders.”

Although her long career in the Alhambra district is impressive, the part of her journey that she believes can be an inspiration to others is her path through college. She completed her bachelor’s degree at age 36 while raising her four children. It wasn’t easy and it took awhile to juggle the two, but she made it possible.

“Dreams really can come true – you just have to figure out a way to overcome some of those challenges that you face along the way,” she said. “It’s not too late.”

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]

Rick Calcutt



College of Theology, class of 1990

After 15 years as a worship pastor, is Creative Arts Pastor at Compass Christian Church in Chandler.

Rex Collins


Colangelo College of Business, class of 1968

Spent 52 years as a food broker, helping found Advantage Sales and Marketing.

T.C. Dean


College of Education, class of 1959

Grand Canyon’s first African-American graduate became a principal to cap 50 years in education.

Shor Denny


College of Humanities and Social Sciences, classes of 2014 and 2018

Founded nonprofit Community Now, which promotes mental health.

Pete Gorraiz


Colangelo College of Business, class of 1954

Joined the military for several years before pursuing a career in education for 34 years.

Alicia Shields


College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, class of 2015

Lead faculty for CONHCP, active in anti-human trafficking and suicide prevention.


Related stories:

GCU  Today: Hall of Famers strive to impact future generations

GCU Today: GCU students Serve the City by building a garden

GCU Today: New Homecoming events bring out historic memories


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