Fountain Hills Unified School District’s goal is to prepare students to venture out and succeed in the world, but there is a fair share of successful graduates who have come back to their alma mater to help the next generation of Falcons soar.
Currently there are nine staff members working across the three FHUSD campuses who attended the district when they were students.
This is the first article in a series The Times will be publishing profiling the FHUSD staff who returned to the nest.
This is Samantha Elder’s first year teaching third grade at McDowell Mountain Elementary School but, technically, it’s her eighth year at the school.
“In high school I got to be in the Future Teachers program so I was volunteering in Ms. Cooper’s classroom from sophomore year until I graduated,” Elder explained. “Then I continued to volunteer here when I would come down from college.”
For this graduate of the FHHS class of 2015, there was never any doubt that she would be a teacher and there was no other district that Elder wanted to start her career in.
“This was the one place I wanted to work at,” Elder said. “It was my first choice and the only one I applied to because I know Mrs. D., the staff and how everything flows here. So having that prior knowledge made it really easy to step into the job.”
Elder attended Four Peaks Elementary school growing up, so she doesn’t have any coworkers now who taught her before, but Elder does get to see and work with former teachers, now co-workers.
“It’s really cool to talk to them not as a student, but it’s also hard because I want to call Randy, Mr. Bragg,” Elder said with a laugh. “So it’s just figuring out how to navigate that.”
Kaitlin Good, graduate of the FHHS class of 2009, is another MMES third grade teacher who is embarking on her first year at the school.
Prior to teaching at McDowell Mountain Good taught in the Mesa School District. But after moving back to town with her husband, Good wanted to work locally.
Very much like Elder, Good knew from early on that she wanted to be a teacher.
“I always remember playing school with all of my stuffed animals,” Good said. “It was just something that I always loved doing.”
Good started attending FHUSD in the sixth grade when Fountain Hills Middle School opened. During her time in FHUSD, a handful of teachers had a strong influence on her path.
“In seventh grade there was Mrs. Van Dine and she was the one that just made math click for me I guess. I just didn’t get it before then,” Good said. “Then Mr. J, or I guess Dr. J now, he made learning so much fun because he turned his classroom into a storytelling type of place. He had a box full of little G.I. Joes and he would set up battles and made it super fun.”
Now Good gets to go through the surreal experience of being peers with her former teachers.
“It was definitely a trip going into the summer meetings and seeing my old teachers,” Good said. “They all thought it was so cool to see me back, they were glad to see our faces.”
Her former teachers aren’t the only ones that think it’s cool that Good came back to Fountain Hills.
“On the first day of school I gave my class my background,” Good said. “I had a whole slide show and when I told them I went here they were like, ‘What!’”