Everyone has a favorite teacher.
Sometimes it’s the third grade teacher who helped you finally figure out fractions, the eighth grade history teacher who made class fun or the high school science teacher who encouraged you go for your dream job and sometimes it’s a family member.
The Arizona Daily Sun asked a Flagstaff teacher, Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng and Flagstaff City Councilmember Charlie Odegaard who their favorite teacher or teachers were, how they shaped their lives and what they would say to that teacher today. Here are their responses.
Danielle Grimmett, a fifth grade teacher at Marshall Elementary School, has two favorite teachers: Marylyn Myers and her mom, Valerie Grimmett.
“Myers was my resource teacher. She was amazingly supportive,” Danielle wrote in an email. “She would give special attention to each of her students. She would pull us out of the classroom and work with both my sister and I to address any needs we had. She gave us a place to ask questions without judgment and a place to feel safe. She worked with each of her students to help them understand how they learned best and the skills to help us cope in areas we struggled.”
“I use many of the skills she taught me today,” Danielle said. “I know she didn’t hear it enough in her career, but thank you, Mrs. Myers, all of your hard work is truly appreciated and remembered!”
Danielle’s mom, Valerie, also has a special place in her heart. Valerie taught in the Flagstaff Unified School District for more than 20 years. Teaching was her second career, Valerie said. She started her work life with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Then as a single mom of four kids she decided to switch careers and become a teacher. She put herself through Northern Arizona University’s teachers’ college, earned her degree and taught several different grades at two different FUSD schools before settling in as a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Kinsey Elementary.
“She loved to teach science and inspired her students to love it, too,” Danielle said. It’s why science is one of Danielle’s favorite subjects to teach.
“She taught me how to love nature and the world around us. She taught her students how to have fun while learning. (She) ran a tight ship but was often caught dancing and being silly around the classroom,” Danielle said. “She even made her students love spiders. She had a resident spider that she called Fred. Her love for life and interest in the world around her is what has inspired me.”
Valerie said Fred was a spider that showed up one day while she was using an overhead projector for class. Fred seemed to come back each year and was so popular that students started bringing in other eight-legged friends for Fred. Valerie retired in 2012 but then went to work at the Willow Bend Environmental Education Center for a few years so she could continue to work with students.
Danielle said it was her mom’s love of teaching and her experiences in her mom’s classroom that got her to thinking about teaching a second career. Danielle also graduated from NAU with a bachelor’s degree in another field. As she pondered her career options, Danielle considered her mom’s path in teaching.
“I had to do something rewarding and stimulating. It just seemed like a natural fit. I was good with kids and I was good with classroom management,” Danielle said.
So she returned to college to get a master’s degree in Elementary Education and ended up getting a job at Marshall Elementary School teaching fourth and fifth graders.
Danielle said she frequently calls her mom for advice. Her mom’s background in teaching let her know what to expect before she stepped into her first classroom and how things work.
“I knew what I was getting into. I think a lot of younger teachers don’t know what to expect until they’re in a classroom by themselves,” Danielle said.
“If I could thank her today, I would say thank you for opening the world up for me and teaching me that being different isn’t a fault but instead a strength to be proud of,” Danielle said. “Thank you for always being interested in learning all you could and inspiring your students to do the same."
NAU President Rita Cheng said her favorite teacher was Don Blegen. He taught biology at Elmwood High School in Elmwood, Wis.
“It was a very small high school and I remember him as being young and energetic,” Cheng said. “I recall that as high school students we were having fun and not necessarily paying attention all the time. I remember that he really knew the content and that he used humor to get us to focus. He encouraged me to go to college when few from my class had that ambition.”
”I’d like to tell him thank you for bringing the best out in me and for seeing a future in education from a young farm girl,” Cheng said.
Councilmember Charlie Odegaard said, “My favorite teacher of all time was Mr. John Wesley Ply at Flagstaff High School.”
Odegaard said he took a math class from Ply, who passed away in 2013.
“His style was he really wanted you to understand the subject and he was always there to help you either in class or after class. I believe it was his kindness that students liked,” Odegaard said.
Ply’s upbeat attitude taught him to look at the glass as being half full, to always be kind and smile. It’s something Odegaard said he tries to do every day.
“What would I say to him is, ‘Thank you,’ with a smile,” Odegaard said.
As fierce debate rages about "taking a knee" during the national anthem to protest social injustice, Native Americans have a unique take on the issue as the ethnic group with the highest military-service rate, and an enduring regard for warriors.
Supporters of the movement say it's not intended as a criticism of the military. But such a protest would be unthinkable for many at tribal events because the flag and veterans are so deeply intertwined - and revered.
"I'll stand. I'll do whatever I think is appropriate to honor them first, and then over there, I can debate about whether the country is living up to its side of the deal when it comes to treaty rights, water rights, social issues that affect a lot of the tribes," said Erny Zah, a singer, powwow emcee and dancer from the Navajo Nation in the Southwest. "Very rarely do I hear anything that negates the veterans' services, or the country's disparagement of whatever social issues might be happening at the time."
American Indians have served in the U.S. military at higher rates per capita than any other ethnic group despite a history of suffering at the hands of Europeans, and even in times when they were denied U.S. citizenship and the right to vote. Serving in the military and protecting one's homeland is considered a continuation of warrior traditions.
Many tribes even have their own national anthems known as flag songs that focus on veterans. They're popular among Plains tribes from which the modern powwow originated, said Dennis Zotigh of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Powwows are social gatherings, generally with competitive dancing.
Other tribes including the Lumbee, Eastern Cherokee, Mohegan and Pequot on the East Coast, and Cochiti, Jemez and Taos pueblos in the Southwest also composed their own flag songs, telling their stories and admiration for the U.S. flag, Zotigh said.
The reverence on display is almost sacred, he said. Warriors are blessed through ceremonies before they encounter enemies, and welcomed back with parades, giveaways, eagle feathers, cleansing ceremonies and songs. Powwows often have a grand entry solely for veterans, who line up and can take hours to introduce themselves by name, military affiliation and years served.
Singers sit around a drum, starting a melody and slow beat before the words of flag songs repeat.
"The president's flag will stand forever," reads a portion of a Sioux song.
"Our country, our land is the most powerful country in the world," says a Hidatsa song.
"Under the nation's flag, generations will stand forever. So do I," says another composed on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and first sung in a World War II victory celebration.
While the U.S. flag is displayed prominently as a reminder of the warrior societies from which powwows originated, so too is the eagle staff - a universal flag of people native to North America, said Zotigh, who is Kiowa, Santee Dakota and Ohkay Owingeh. The flag songs also are sung while the U.S. flag is lowered and raised on tribal land, many times by veterans and using a flag given to a deceased veteran's family.
"When our people have their own doings, we're going to go along with those folks," said Herb Adson, a Pawnee from Oklahoma and singer with Southern Thunder. "If they want to raise the flag, that flag song is sung, everyone is going to stand up."
America's 567 federally recognized tribes are considered sovereign - nations within but separate from the U.S. and states, with the right to govern themselves.
Some ancient flag songs pre-date the United States and were composed during times of intertribal warfare to welcome warriors back to camp, Zotigh said. Others were composed by soldiers stationed overseas defending the U.S. - a Lakota soldier on a train coming home after World War II or a Hidatsa soldier in Europe during WWII, for example. Others are of unknown origin.
American Indians and Alaska Natives make up about 2 percent of the U.S. population, and Census figures from 2016 show nearly 136,500 of them are veterans who identify solely as Native. They weren't considered citizens during WWI, which meant those who served did so illegally but proudly, Zotigh said. American Indians were granted U.S. citizenship in 1924 but not all were allowed to vote until the early 1960s, well after WWII ended.
Perhaps the most well-known American Indian veterans are the Code Talkers, who were recruited from various tribes to develop military codes based on their native languages. A Pima Indian, Marine Cpl. Ira Hayes, was among the group that raised the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima in World War II. The first female soldier to die in the Iraq War, Lori Piestewa, was a member of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona.
William Runsabove, a singer and enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe of Montana, said the pride Native veterans have for serving the U.S. eclipses any feelings about the U.S. president, politics or social injustice.
"You can't take away from pride a Native American has for service," he said. "And, of course, the tough times ... a big percentage of people aren't happy with the way things are going now, but you can't take away that pride."
Who's the boss? That's the awkward question after the departing head of a government agency charged with looking after consumer rights appointed a deputy to temporarily fill his spot. The White House then named its own interim leader.
One job, two people — and two very different views on how to do it.
The first pick is expected to continue the aggressive policing of banks and other lenders that have angered Republicans. The second, President Donald Trump's choice, has called the agency a "joke," an example of bureaucracy run amok, and is expected to dismantle much of what the agency has done.
So come Monday, who will be leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?
Senior Trump administration officials said Saturday that the law was on their side and they expect no trouble when Trump's pick for temporary director of the CFPB shows up for work. Departing director Richard Cordray, an Obama appointee long criticized by Congressional Republicans as overzealous, had cited a different rule in saying the law was on his side.
In tendering his resignation Friday, Cordray elevated Leandra English, who was the agency's chief of staff, into the deputy director position. Citing the Dodd-Frank Act that created the CFPB, he said English, an ally of his, would become acting director upon his departure.
Corday's move was widely seen an attempt to stop Trump from shaping the agency in the months ahead.
The White House cites the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998. Administration officials on Saturday acknowledged that some other laws appear to clash with Vacancies Act, but said that in this case the president's authority takes precedence.
Who prevails in the legal wrangling is seen as important even though this involves just a temporary posting. Getting a permanent replacement approved by the Senate could take months.
The president's pick for temporary appointee, Mick Mulvaney, had been widely anticipated. Mulvaney, currently director of the Office of Management and Budget, has been an outspoken critic of the agency and is expected to pull back on many of Cordray's actions in the six years since he was appointed.
Trump announced he was picking Mulvaney within a few hours of Cordray's announcement on Friday.
"The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, has been a total disaster as run by the previous Administrations pick," Trump tweeted Saturday from his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is spending a long Thanksgiving weekend. "Financial Institutions have been devastated and unable to properly serve the public. We will bring it back to life!"
The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel had already approved Trump's appointment of Mulvaney, administration officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the White House's thinking.
In issuing a memo about its opinion Saturday, the Office of Legal Counsel said the president has the power to appoint an acting director of the agency. Steven A. Engel, newly confirmed head of the office, wrote that, while the deputy director may serve as acting director under the statute, the president still has authority under the Vacancies Reform Act.
"Even when the Vacancies Reform Act is not the 'exclusive' means for filling a vacancy, the statute remains an available option, and the president may rely upon it in designating an acting official in a manner that differs from the order of succession otherwise provided by an office-specific statute," he wrote in a memo.
The clashing appointments raise the question: What happens when the two new heads show up and try to sit at the same desk and give orders?
One of the administration officials said Mulvaney was expected to start working Monday and that English was expected to also show up — but as deputy director.
The agency has been tangled in in partisan politics since its creation, with the two competing appointees a reflection of that.
English is a trusted lieutenant of Cordray's who has helped investigate and punish financial companies in ways that many Republicans, Mulvaney in particular, think go too far. In his announcement Friday, Cordray highlighted English's "in-depth" knowledge of the agency's operations and its staff. Before joining the CFPB, English served at the Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management.
"Leandra is a seasoned professional who has spent her career of public service focused on promoting smooth and efficient operations," Cordray said in the statement.
Mulvaney was a South Carolina representative to the House before becoming head of the budget office. A founder of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, he was elected in 2010 as part of a tea party wave that brought many critics of the U.S. budget deficit to office. He has taken a hard line on federal spending matters, routinely voting against increasing the government's borrowing cap and pressing for major cuts to benefit programs as the path to balancing the budget.
He also has been unsparing in his criticism of the CFPB. In a widely quoted comment, he once blasted the agency as "joke," saying its lack of oversight by Congress and its far-reaching regulations had gone too far.
U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee and a longtime critic of Cordray, said Mulvaney would "fight not only to protect consumers from force, fraud, and deception but will protect them from government interference with competitive, innovative markets and help preserve their fundamental economic opportunities and liberties."
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters of California, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, issued a statement Saturday calling Mulvaney "unacceptable" to lead the CFPB because of his "noxious" views toward its mission to protect consumers.
Members of the 110th Arizona Town Hall are recommending that the state spend around $900 million more a year to raise teacher pay by an average of $15,000 in order to recruit and keep teachers.
The organization released a list of recommendations after an intensive four-day town hall last week. Those recommendations include
--increasing teacher pay
--restoring funding for school building repairs and new construction
-- finding new revenue streams for education
-- making sure that those revenues cannot be diverted by the state.
According to the Town Hall report, it could cost the state more than $3 billion to implement all of the recommendations.
Paul Kulpinski, from LAUNCH Flagstaff, and Coconino County Superintendent of Schools Risha VanderWey were among local attendees.
According to its website, Arizona Town Hall is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization created in 1962. Each year, the organization’s members pick one topic of concern in the state, such as water, the economy, energy and education. The organization invites people from around the state, including local government and business leaders, as well as members of the public to participate in a statewide Town Hall meeting where the group comes up with possible solutions to the problems.
“It’s a wonderful process,” Kulpinski said, adding that each day was long and exhausting, with some days starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 8:30 p.m.
Kulpinski said he was on one of four panels that worked for two and a half days on identifying problems with school funding in the state and possible solutions. Each panel had 14 questions to discuss, seven on Monday and seven Tuesday. On Wednesday, the last day of the event, the entire group of about 100 people met to draft a report and recommendations to share with the public. The list of recommendations and a report on school funding can be found at the Arizona Town Hall website.
Kulpinski said it was enlightening to see that other communities around the state were facing some of the same problems as Flagstaff. He said that, unlike the current national political climate, his panel had a lot agreement when it came to what was wrong with the system and a lot of respect for different ideas on how to solve the problem.
There was a strong desire in the final report to create a thoughtful and intentional way to communicate to the public and the state government the need for for education funding in the state, he said. However, the report is just a framework -- the public, businesses and government leaders have to push for action in order to make the necessary changes.
Kulpinski said Arizona’s teacher shortage and teacher pay were two subjects that came up frequently in discussions around the room. The Town Hall report calls Arizona’s teacher shortage a “crisis.”
The report states that low teacher pay affects teacher recruitment and retention. Spending about $900 million would raise average teacher pay in Arizona to at least the national average. It also suggests giving teachers more autonomy and support in the classroom, more mentors for new teachers and more teacher’s aides.
Kulpinski said another point that seemed to come up again and again in each panel was the inequity of the funding system between mainstream public school districts and charters.
For example, the state now divvies out funding to schools based on the number of students who are in class each day. Previously, funding was based on the number of students who attended the school or district in the previous year. The new formula makes it hard for district schools to budget for the entire school year because the funding they get is now linked with how many students attend classes each month. Charter schools can limit how many students they can take in a year, so they have a better idea of how many they will have each month.
The education funding system also has drawbacks for charter schools because charters cannot use bonds or overrides to raise additional money through property taxes like district schools can, Kulpinski said. The amount of property taxes that can be raised by district schools also varies from place to place because property values vary from place to place. This means that wealthier areas like Flagstaff can raise more money from overrides than rural areas where property values aren’t as high. Wealthier areas also tend to collect more money in tax credits from families who are interested in supporting their child’s school or district.
Schools are also rewarded with additional funding for performing well on the state’s AzMERIT assessment tests. According to the draft report from Arizona Town Hall, this can deprive schools of the additional funding they need in order to improve.
Members of the Arizona Town Hall recommended doing away with the current year funding formula and going back to the formula that based funding on the number of students who attended school in the previous year. It also recommended a universal state property tax rate for education that would even out the differences in funding between districts and between districts and charters.
The effect of school choice and private school vouchers was also a topic that came up, Kulpinski said.
“It’s not so much about a parent’s choice as to which school they send their child to as it is which students a school wants to accept,” he said. Schools are starting to view students as products, rather than individuals.
Even though public charter schools are required to take in any student that comes to them, they can limit the number of students they can accept in a year based on their size. Most charter schools use a lottery system when there are more applicants than classroom spots. However, according to the Town Hall report, student swho have more resources to begin with are more likely to have the means and resources to get into a charter school or pay the costs for a private school that are not covered by a voucher. And in some rural areas students don’t have a choice of schools, because there is no alternative to the local district schools.
“School choice tends to concentrate the highest-need and highest-cost students in schools with the lowest levels of state funding, while the highest-performing students are concentrated in other schools that tend to have higher levels of state funding, as well as access to other resources,” the report states.
Kulpinski also said that there is a rising awareness among businesses looking to move to Arizona that the state does not invest in its education system. Tax cuts to entice businesses to the state are no longer enough, he said. Businesses want an educated workforce that has the skills a business needs to succeed.
Kulpinski said the Town Hall estimated that the cost to implement all of the recommendations in the report would be more than $3 billion to start and around $2 billion annually to sustain, not including annual increases for inflation. The state government currently spends about $4.3 billion a year on public schools, with local property taxpayers chipping in for budget overrides and capital bonds.
The report recommended raising teacher salaries by renewing the Proposition 301 sales tax and increasing it from 0.6 percent to at least 1 percent. Most of the money from Prop. 301 goes to teacher salaries and the state would lose about $600 million annually after 2021 if the proposition is not renewed by voters.
The report also recommended renewing Proposition 123, which was approved by voters in 2016 and is due to expire in 2025. Prop. 123 increased the amount of money distributed to schools from the state’s Land Trust Fund from 2.5 percent to 6.9 percent annually, or an added $325 million a year.
The report also recommends closing loopholes in the corporate income tax system, creating a statewide property tax, creating a sales tax on energy that is sold out of state and on tourism and entertainment activities. The state’s tax credit system that funds extracurricular activities at public schools and scholarships to private schools also needs to be reconsidered.