Rio Salado College Dual Enrollment Graduate Eyes Teaching Career
TEMPE, Ariz. — Many of today’s 18-year-olds are concerned with technology and staying connected: selfies, Snapchat, texting, iPhones, Instagram, Netflix, etc. Lennon Audrain’s concern, by contrast, is about Arizona’s teacher shortage.
“While pay is ultimately one of the issues Arizona can fix to address the teacher shortage, ensuring that teachers in the classroom are highly-skilled and highly-qualified cannot be overlooked,” Audrain said.
“Research shows that an effective teacher can conquer content despite socioeconomic boundaries.”
At age 18, Audrain is already an engaging public speaker, a passionate advocate for teachers, and on a fast track to making a difference in the education world thanks to Rio Salado College’s dual enrollment program.
“I saw that dual enrollment offered an associate degree in elementary education and I decided that I would pursue this degree before I graduated from high school,” Audrain said.
Audrain decided to pursue education after developing a love for teaching from his parents.
“My mom came to the United States from Thailand to pursue a master’s degree in education and my dad is a teacher now,” Audrain said. “From a young age, I saw the impact that teachers made on myself and others.”
He was further encouraged by some of the teachers at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix.
“My three high school Latin teachers, Ms. Balcom, Ms. Haycock, and Ms. Crosson, also played a key role in helping me discover my path to teaching,” Audrain said.
While taking dual enrollment classes, Audrain joined Rio Salado’s chapter of Educators Rising Arizona, a national organization for aspiring teachers and their mentors.
“Educators Rising is transforming how America develops aspiring teachers,” Audrain said. “They provide young people with hands-on teaching experience and help them cultivate the skills they need to be successful educators.”
The organization holds national performance-based competitive events in which teens demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and leadership in education.
Audrain has fared well in Educators Rising Arizona competitions:
• 9th in the nation for a presentation on education administration in 2015.
• 1st in the nation for a TEDstyle talk on student voice in 2016.
• 2nd in the nation for public speaking on the achievement gap in 2016.
• 1st in the nation for both impromptu speaking and public speaking on recruiting more teachers of color in 2017.
Kimberly Tobey, director of field and student teaching experiences at Rio Salado, and president of Educators Rising Arizona’s advisory board, is proud to watch Audrain represent Arizona on a national level.
“It is exciting to watch Lennon grow as an educator, orator, and advocate for the K-12 system,” Tobey said. “He is a strong example of how persistence and hard work can make anything happen.”
“In addition, Lennon’s energy and enthusiasm for the future of education across this country is contagious!” Specifically, Tobey notes Audrain’s fundamental approach to addressing issues facing the education profession.
“Lennon brings an understanding of building relationships, that education must be equitable for every student,” Tobey said. “I believe that he will use his voice to continue to advocate for higher pay for classroom teachers, strengthen Career and Technical Education Programs, and promote dual-language programs to train future students.”
Audrain is currently serving as national student president of Educators Rising, a role that has allowed him the opportunity to participate in a variety of speaking engagements and networking events on a national scale.
In December, Audrain spoke to a group of 3,000 educators and aspiring teachers at the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) annual Vision conference in Nashville.
“Some of the best experiences I have had as student president are the conversations and relationships I have built with the members across the nation,” Audrain said. “Hearing their stories — what makes them tick for teaching — is one of the perks of my job.”
Thanks to dual enrollment, Audrain graduated from Rio Salado College with two associate degrees in January 2017, five months before he graduated from high school.
“As an institution, Rio Salado sets future educators up for success in and outside of the classroom,” Audrain said. “Dual enrollment let me get ahead in my degree, and validated that the classes in which I was enrolled were preparing me for college and future success.”
Audrain is currently enrolled at Arizona State University (ASU). He is pursuing a degree in International Letters and Cultures in Classics with a concentration on Classical Latin, and a secondary education certificate in history and Latin.
He is looking forward to the student teaching component of his bachelor’s degree require ments.
“The classroom experience is invigorating,” Audrain said. “Seeing learning in action--one of the most human things we do — and helping to facilitate this process is an experience that I not only enjoy, but actively attempt to understand and respond to each day.”
Audrain plans to graduate from ASU in the spring of 2019, at the age of 19. His future goals include earning a master’s degree in either counseling or education and ultimately a doctoral degree.
“I, of course, want to spend time in the classroom, but also go abroad and study other cultures,” Audrain said.
Whatever his future holds, Audrain hopes to make a positive impact on education.
“It is my hope that each child receives an education that is rigorous and relevant to their own needs and the needs of society,” Audrain said.
“I hope, too, that more will pursue the noble profession that is teaching and tackle it with the same dedication that doctors, lawyers, and other highlyesteemed professionals do within their crafts.”