Katie Patoka works as a teacher aide in the morning, and teaches history and English in the afternoons at Redeemer Lutheran School. She is new to Tucson—this summer will mark her first year here— but she’s already making a mark!

Patoka was born and raised in Wisconsin. She moved to... Read more

Renee Griffith/City Editor

Kristin Thomas is the advanced math teacher for second-grade through fifth-grade students at Ocotillo Ridge Elementary. She is a military wife and was a stay-at-home mom until her youngest child started first grade. Now she is in her ninth year of teaching at Ocotillo Ridge.

“My mom and... Read more


Samantha Kunk says she did not intend to follow in her mother's footsteps. Her mom is a teacher, and Kunk says she saw firsthand how demanding a teaching career could be.

“I had seen how much time my mom put into it, how much work,” Kunk says. “It frightened me a little.”

After... Read more


Sonya Vandermolen is new to Tucson but not new to teaching. Vandermolen teaches fifth grade at Erickson Elementary. The Arizona native spent nearly a decade in front of the class in Phoenix before she moved to the Old Pueblo.

She says reflecting on her strengths led her to teaching.... Read more


Alba Burke is a mother hen to her kindergarten students at Oyama Elementary. She feels very protective of her "pollitos bonitos,” or cute little chicks, as she guides them into the world of schooling and the English language.

Burke has her CLAD Certificate (Crosscultural, Language, and... Read more

Alisa Fenstermacher teaches at St. Michael’s School. She is new to the school and new to the fourth grade (after teaching eighth grade), but she is not new to teaching.

Fenstermacher grew up in Illinois and attended Illinois State University. She taught in schools in the Chicago area... Read more

James Green went into teaching many years ago and he enjoyed it, he says. But after a few years, he realized he would need to pursue a different career to support his family. Green joined the Air Force, but he always dreamed of returning to the classroom.

During his 25-year military... Read more

Michelle Sotelo has taught for 20 years. After teaching kindergarten, 2nd and 3rd grade, she has spent the last six years at Apollo Middle School where she teaches Language Arts.

“I love it. I’ve found my niche,” says Sotelo. “I love teaching 7th grade because I can act like a silly 12-... Read more

Kandice Baker has been teaching fourth grade at Butterfield Elementary for a decade. When did she realize that she wanted to become a teacher? “I had always known as far as I can remember,” Baker says.

When she was in school her favorite subject was reading, Baker says. She still enjoys... Read more