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James Benitez sees his future, and it is in teaching. This student teacher is in his last semester at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and he is currently doing his student teaching in a 4th–6th combo classroom at Whittier Elementary in Mesa. 

Benitez is an Arizona native who went to elementary, middle and high school in Tempe. He says he plans to stay local. “I want to be in Arizona forever. This is my state—I want to teach here,” he says.

While he comes from a family of musicians, Benitez was working in an office and studying nursing when his interest in teaching was sparked. He began tutoring through the AVID program and he found his calling.

“There’s nothing better than seeing students get it, seeing that look,” he says. 

After teaching science and math last semester, Benitez is looking forward to teaching English this semester. “I really love English. In 8th grade I had a really good English teacher and I fell in love with the subject,” he says.

When he was tutoring, Benitez worked with 6th through 8th grade students, and he says he hopes to work as a middle school English or social studies teacher in the future.

While he did not follow in his musical family’s footsteps, he did play the viola in middle school and high school, but says he has not played in years. Currently, he enjoys spending his free time with family, watching baseball, and playing baseball and racing video games.

“I love baseball more than anything,” he admits.

Benitez was nominated by student Gia. She writes, “My teacher is awesome because he starts his day with a smile and when I see him he makes me smile too.”

Staying positive is part of his teaching style, too, says Benitez. “My philosophy is, I feel like all students have positive things they can contribute,” explains Benitez. “I teach to (their) strengths,” he says and he also works to tailor to students’ needs.

The future is bright for this teacher. “I’m very excited to graduate,” he says, “This is my last semester and I’m excited to start teaching.”

January 2022