Today I had the privilege to represent A for Arizona as a speaker for the Teacher Retention Project conference in Phoenix along with one of our ‘A’ school leaders, Adrian Ruiz from Espiritu Schools.

The Teacher Retention Project (TRP) was founded by educators who know firsthand the challenges teachers – particularly those in high needs schools – face on a day-to-day basis. TRP is committed to retaining Arizona’s top teachers and combating attrition in a variety of ways. Today’s conference celebrated top teachers in highly performing low-income schools by bringing them together and providing an opportunity for collaboration and inspiration. Along with A for Arizona, the event featured education leaders from the Rodel FoundationExpert More Arizona, and the Arizona Charter Schools Association.

Great teachers don’t always get the recognition they deserve. It was very important for me to tell these excellent teachers their hard work is noticed and appreciated, and to thank them for all the ways they are changing the future for Arizona kids. I shared my excitement about the direction education in Arizona is heading due in part to initiatives like Classrooms First, a more rigorous school grading system, and overall higher standards. Arizona’s approach to education is changing and teachers are the change agents.

The event was also a great opportunity to share the important work A for Arizona is doing to support and grow quality low-income schools. With a renewed focus on how we can best support and equip ‘A’-schools for continued success and future growth, we are building a culture of celebration for top leaders and educators. In particular, A for Arizona is working closely with TRP on recognizing top education practices with the belief that teachers are the tip of the spear when it comes to changing the education environment in our state.

A for Arizona supports the work of TRP because we recognize that Arizona’s school system is facing a crisis when it comes to teachers. An alarming Arizona Department of Education statistic reveals that in 2012, 35 percent of classroom teachers left their teaching positions, and today Arizona has more than 700 teacher vacancies. In high poverty urban areas, teacher attrition is nearly 50 percent higher than in affluent schools.

With this reality in mind, supporting high quality teachers in low-income schools is more important than ever. TRP works to retain high quality teachers through increased teacher pay, enhanced professional development and coaching, and providing more opportunities for peer collaboration and networking. A for Arizona is proud to stand alongside great organizations like the Teacher Retention Project in support of Arizona’s top teachers. As we know so well, the work is hard and the financial rewards can be meager, but the impact of a great teacher is priceless in the life of a student.