Choosing the right career path can be a difficult decision to make. Leah Knaeble discovered she was on the wrong career path after she completed her bachelor’s degree in global business and realized what she really wanted to do was be an educator. She chose Rio Salado College’s fast-track teacher education program to earn a certificate in education and to begin her new journey. She's now found her calling— Leah is about to become the dean of students at two middle schools in the Paradise Valley Unified School District.
“I chose Rio Salado to become a teacher because most of the classes were online, with teachers who were flexible and responsive,” Knaeble said. She said she felt the classes were relevant and prepared her to start teaching right after the completion of her program.
Because Rio Salado requires field experience for nearly every class, Knaeble was able to observe a variety of classes, teachers and techniques that she wanted to bring to her own classroom. She said she learned early on that “students need to talk to others and learn to collaborate the same way that we do as adults.”
As a single mother, scheduling flexibility and an affordable tuition was important to Knaeble. “Rio Salado was more affordable than the alternative pathways to become a teacher,” she said. Knaeble was able to finish the entire program in a year and a half while taking 18-24 credits at a time.
Having a flexible and affordable option at Rio Salado wasn’t the only thing that pushed Knaeble toward a successful career in teaching. She was inspired by Denise Brunner, a now-retired elementary school teacher, who not only taught Leah’s younger siblings and her daughter but who Leah was able to student teach with.
“She inspired me because she had a solid foundation of Social Emotional Learning before it was trending in education,” Knaeble said. “She remembered every student.” Denise’s inspiring example, along with the education Leah got at Rio Salado College, has prepared her to contribute to the community in meaningful ways.
Knaeble now sees the value in community connections and believes that building relationships with students, colleagues, and the community is the most rewarding part about teaching. Through her most recent position as a certified ombudsman, she saw firsthand the value of building relationships as she assisted teachers with finding information, answered questions they had, and provided helpful insights to make their jobs easier. Being able to engage with other professionals through the Arizona Education Association is one of the reasons why she has stayed in public education for 18 years.
“When working together with teachers across the state and country, we will always be more effective than working alone,” Knaeble said. She joins more than 3,000 student teachers who have completed Rio Salado's teacher education program in the last 20 years and her start at Rio Salado has enabled her to reach her full potential and make a real difference in the community.
Learn more about our Educator Preparation Programs at riosalado.edu/teacher-education