Cheers to Our 2023 Staff Member of the Year Nominees

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On behalf of ASU Preparatory Academy, we want to recognize our outstanding education support personnel for their significant contributions to our school and students. Meet our incredible 2023 Staff Member of the Year nominees:


Mollie Patten, Learning Success Coach
ASU Prep Digital 

Mollie Patten is a Learning Success Coach with ASU Prep’s Math Momentum Team. She enjoys working alongside passionate, innovative colleagues and curious, thoughtful middle school mathematicians. The heart of her work involves celebrating and supporting student progress, brainstorming and planning with teachers, and connecting with her partner district. She also ensures that all requirements are fulfilled with enrollments, scheduling, and testing. Mollie has her undergraduate degree from ASU and it is what led her to apply for the Learning Success Coach role. 

Yessica Flores, Administrative Assistant
ASU South Phoenix

Yessica Flores is an Administrative Assistant at South Phoenix High School. This is her second year in education and as a member of the ASU Prep team. In her role, she manages the school budget, inventory, school functions, and assists and provides guidance to all staff members. Prior to ASU Prep she was a Business Manager in the property management industry for 10 years. She decided to change career paths and is loving her current position. 

Liliana Grijalva, Academic Coach
ASU Prep Phoenix

Lily Grijalva is a dedicated technology-loving educator who has worked with teachers and students to challenge themselves in the classroom to improve student learning. Lily has 17 years in education, and for the past nine years at ASU Prep she has worked as a teacher and now supports teachers as an Academic Coach. She holds a Master of Administration and Leadership from the University of Phoenix, and a Master of Educational Technology from ASU. She is a first-generation school graduate, and believes that everyone is able to learn and accomplish goals that others may think of as impossible.   

Amy Danielson, Registrar
ASU Prep Poly

Amy Danielson is the lead Registrar for the Poly K-12 campus and provides guidance to all Registrar team members across the network. This is her seventh year as a member of the ASU Prep staff. Amy earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She believes in supporting our parents and students in the registration process, which helps pave the way to building long-lasting relationships with the school. 

Kacey McCan, IT Operations Manager
ASU Prep Academy 

Kacey McCan is a passionate IT manager who provides operational solutions to our students and staff across all of ASU Prep. She has eight years of IT support expertise and is entering her third school year at ASU Prep. Kacey completed her Bachelor of Science at the University of South Florida and has continued her education through various training and certifications. She has a curious mind and is dedicated to identifying innovative systems and outcomes that support our staff and ASU Prep learners on a daily basis. 

Kim Mitchell, Learning Facilitator
ASU Polytechnic 

Kim Mitchell is a devoted Learning Facilitator who provides support for our middle school and high school math immersion students and teachers at ASU Prep Poly. This is her 10th year in education and her ninth year at ASU Prep. She adores the students and strives to find methods to help each of them succeed. Kim believes in ASU Prep’s culture and vision so much that her son has attended our school since kindergarten. He is now in his junior year and is looking forward to continuing his education as a Sun Devil. 

Loralee Castillo Panagakis, Reading Interventionist
ASU Prep Phoenix 

Loralee Castillo Panagakis is a Reading Interventionist and has been at ASU Prep for two years. She has 24 years of teaching experience, and believes learning never stops. Raised in the old Atrisco Land grant area of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and having grown up in a bilingual home and community, she learned that with hard work and dedication dreams can become reality. She earned her Master of Education specializing as a Program Reading Specialist from Liberty University and is currently working on a Master in Educational Leadership at ASU. She is a current National Board Candidate for Early and Middle Childhood/Literacy: Reading-Language Arts.

 Fallon Roberts, Human Capital Manager
ASU Prep Academy 

Fallon Roberts is a Human Resources professional who is passionate about the employee experience. This is her fifth year in Human Resources, and second year with the Human Capital team at ASU Prep. Fallon earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from San Francisco State University, and recently earned her Society of Human Resources certification. She believes in fostering a positive culture for all by offering exceptional internal customer service that supports all employees in their work.

Brian Ross, Dean of Students
ASU Prep Casa Grande

Brian Ross is the Dean of Students at ASU Prep Casa Grande. This is his 23rd year in education and seventh year as part of the Casa Grande team. Brian earned his Bachelor of Science in General Biology and Master of Education in Teaching and Teacher Education from the University of Arizona. He believes that all decisions in education should be student-centered, that all students have the capacity for growth, and that restorative practices help build relationships between students and educators of every level.  

 Andrea Swayze, Speech Language Pathologist
ASU Prep Digital 

Andrea Swayze is a Speech-Language Pathologist serving digital middle and high school students. Her role includes case management, therapy, evaluations, as well as collaboration with each student’s academic team. This is her second year at ASU Prep Digital and her 21st as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Andrea earned her degrees from University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University, and Northcentral University. Andrea was drawn to the profession after receiving successful speech therapy as a child. She believes all students thrive when a quality relationship is nurtured and students feel respected as individuals. She is supporting the future of Speech-Language Pathology by guiding intern clinicians each semester. 

Tracy Patrum, Learning Success Coach
ASU Prep Digital 

Tracy Patrum is a Learning Success Coach who provides guidance and support to students and families in all aspects of their high school journey. This is her third year at ASU Prep Digital and her 20th year in education. Tracy earned her Bachelor of Arts in Special Education from Loras College and her Master of Science in Counselor Education from the University of Wisconsin Platteville. She believes that the most important thing she can do for her students and families is to be a light in their day. Her goal is to leave people feeling supported, happier, and more hopeful after each conversation. 

Allison Voltaire, Elementary Principal
ASU Prep Digital 

Allison Voltaire serves as the Digital Elementary Principal. This is her 17th year as an educator, her 11th year as a Digital educator, and her third year as a proud ASU Sun Devil. Allison has a Master in Educational Leadership from American College of Education as well as a Master in Curriculum and Instruction: Technology for Educators from Grand Canyon University. Her leadership philosophy is that every year should be every student’s best year ever, which she strives to blend in with ASU Prep’s Core Values every day.

Amanda Wojtalik, Dean of Students
ASU Polytechnic

Congratulations to all of our outstanding staff nominees!  

Passover: Celebrating Freedom and Family

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Students of all religions, cultures, and beliefs call ASU Prep home, and we are honored to include and welcome them. Passover is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays. It commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom. The holiday, which usually falls in March or April, is often celebrated for eight days and incorporates remembrance of Jewish history, family, and themes of springtime. This year, it concludes the evening of April 13.

The Passover holiday is a “festival of freedom.” The festive seder meal occurs on the first two nights of the holiday and is observed with families, friends, and communities. The seder involves the re-telling of the Exodus. In order to protect their first-born children, the Israelites marked their doors with lamb’s blood so the angel of death would pass over them, thus the name Passover, or “pesach” in Hebrew.

Through stories, songs, and the consumption of ritual foods, families retell the story of deliverance and pass on traditions and religious beliefs. Many Jews do not eat certain leavened foods during Passover. There is a specific section of the seder called the four questions, where the youngest person at the table asks about the different Passover symbols and the elders explain.

In 2020, an estimated 15 million people worldwide identified themselves as Jewish. Jews believe God made a special covenant with Abraham, the founder of Judaism, and that he and his descendants were chosen people who would create a great nation. The origins of the Jewish faith are explained throughout the Torah.

ASU Prep wishes all our community celebrating Passover, a wonderful holiday.  

Christians Celebrate Easter with Hope and Joy

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ASU Prep is proud that students from all over the United States, as well as around the world, call our schools home. With its diverse student body and faculty and staff, it is also home to a wide variety of religions and beliefs.  

Christians around the world celebrated Easter this past Sunday, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his crucifixion. The significance of Easter is Jesus’ resurrection and triumph over death. Christians believe it is this triumph that affirms Jesus was the prophesied Messiah of Israel and the King of a new heaven and a new earth.

In the Christian calendar, Easter follows Lent—the period of 40 days not counting Sundays before Easter—which some Christian sects observe by acts of penance and fasting. Some Christians choose to give up specific preferences, such as sweets, soda, or social media, during Lent as a reminder to pray and to refocus on spiritual matters.

Easter has accumulated a great many secular traditions and symbols. Decorating and hiding eggs for example. The egg became a symbol representing new life. In the U.S., another common custom is that the Easter bunny leaves children baskets with toys and candies on Easter morning. 

Christianity is the largest religious group in the world—approximately one-third of the world’s total population–with an estimated 2.6 billion identifying themselves as Christians. Like many religions, Christianity has several denominations, but Easter brings them together in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.    

ASU Preparatory Academy’s Innovative People, Programs Earn High Honors at 2023 Edtech Awards

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ASU Prep Leaders and Tech Programs Receive Recognition Across

Three Categories, Including Prestigious Designation as Winning School Leader

TEMPE, Ariz. (April 11, 2023) –  A forward-thinking, innovative approach to education is once again earning accolades for ASU Preparatory Academy and its leadership team. At the annual EdTech Awards, ASU Prep leaders and initiatives earned honors in three categories, including School Leader, School Leader Setting a Trend and Learning Management Solution.

Among the honorees is Julie Young, Managing Director of ASU Prep and Vice President of ASU Educational Outreach, who was named the winner of the School Leader category. In addition, Amy McGrath, Chief Operating Officer for ASU Prep and Deputy Vice President of ASU Educational Outreach, was named a finalist in the School Leader Setting a Trend category. 

Rounding out ASU’s presence at the awards was the ASU Prep Learning Cloud, which was a finalist in the Learning Management Solution category.

“Through ASU Prep, we’re leveraging rapidly advancing technology to bring personalized educational opportunities to K-12 students everywhere,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Peer recognitions like this affirm that our learning network is effectively harnessing emerging technologies to support student success.”

The EdTech Awards were established in 2010 to recognize, acknowledge and celebrate the most exceptional innovators, leaders and trendsetters in education technology. Celebrating its 13th year, the U.S.-based program is the world’s largest recognition program for education technology, recognizing the biggest names in edtech—and those who soon will be.

This year’s finalists and winners were narrowed from the larger field and judged based on various criteria, including pedagogical workability, efficacy and results, support, clarity, value and potential.

“A very big congratulations to all The EdTech Awards 2023 finalists and winners—and congratulations to all who endured the upheavals of the last few years only to come through stronger, more experienced, resilient and resolute in laying out the future of learning,” said Victor Rivero, who as Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest, oversees the program.

ASU Honors Black History Month with Community Events

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Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of Black people in U.S. history. We can celebrate Black History Month in many ways, like attending events in our community, supporting black-owned businesses, and reading books written by black authors. Here is a sampling of Black History Month events hosted by our ASU community:

 I, Too, Sing America Black History Month Film Festival

A Black History Month film festival hosted by The Baháʼís of Scottsdale.

 Community Activists-Take Charge-Mothers and Other People

An event hosted both virtually and in the Student Pavilion at the Tempe ASU campus where participants will learn the rich history of African American women in Arizona and place them in the larger context and tradition of Black women who serve as activists throughout the African Diaspora. During the event, Dr. Akua Duku Anokye will discuss her book, Black Woman Rising: African American Community Mother Activists of Phoenix.

 Space2Inspire Weekend

Join us to witness the unveiling of a giant Black History Month inspired art mosaic on the field of Sun Devil Stadium that will be photographed from a satellite in outer space! This weekend will feature special events that honor and recognize two notable ASU graduates: Ed Dwight, the first black American astronaut candidate and Sian Proctor, SpaceX astronaut, the fourth black woman in space and the first black woman Mission Pilot during the first civilian mission to orbit on Inspiration4.

 Movies on the Field: Black Panther Wakanda Forever

Bring a blanket and sit on the grass to enjoy Wakanda Forever under the stars. This event includes a panel on Afrofuturism before the movie!

Wonderspaces Virtual Reality Film Series—’Traveling While Black’

Wonderspaces are partnering with the School of Arts, Media and Engineering to launch a monthly Virtual Reality (VR) Film Series featuring a new celebrated VR film every month for one weekend only on the ASU Tempe campus. “Traveling While Black” is a documentary-style virtual reality film that immerses the viewer in the long history of restriction of movement for Black Americans, confronting the way we understand and talk about race in America. Each visit runs for approximately 50 minutes, and showtimes start on the hour from noon to 7 p.m. during exhibition weekends.

Forbes names ASU one of Best Large Employers in US

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Originally published on ASUNews

February 15, 2023

On Feb. 15, Forbes listed Arizona State University as one of America’s Best Large Employers for 2023.

In partnership with Statista, a global provider of rankings and large-scale polling, Forbes surveyed approximately 45,000 U.S. employees at companies with more than 1,000 workers.

Five hundred U.S. employers across 25 industry sectors were recognized and evaluated based on respondents’ willingness to recommend their employer to friends and family.

Michael G. Latsko, ASU’s vice president and chief human resources officer, said the Best Large Employer title reinforces ASU’s reputation as a company that provides excellent employment opportunities on a national level.

“This honor, especially because it results from employee feedback, is a meaningful testament to ASU’s position as a national destination for top talent,” Latsko said.

“At ASU, we are focused on nurturing our unique, inclusive culture of belonging where employees feel valued, can thrive in their careers and support genuine societal impact. Our culture and people make ASU one of the best places to work in higher education and the country.”

ASU was also named one of America’s Best Employers By State for 2022 by Forbes in August.

Forbes and Statista collected direct recommendations from employees as well as indirect recommendations from workers in the industry. Since the employee experience can vary greatly depending on an organization’s size and the individual worker, the final list ranks the 500 large employers that received the most recommendations. Beginning in 2015 with America’s Best Employers, Forbes and Statista have since expanded the coverage to include those employers considered best for diversity, women and new graduates.

Convergence of Technology and Personalization Play a Critical Role in the Future of Education

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Originally published on K12 Digest

Julie Young, Managing Director of ASU Prep and Vice President of ASU Educational Outreach, has been celebrated as an education disruptor for nearly three decades. She was the founding CEO and president of Florida Virtual School, the world’s first state-wide virtual school and one of the nation’s largest K-12 online education provider. When not leading international school programs, you’ll find her at the nearest beach with several golden retrievers.

Navigating a global pandemic revealed teachable moments in virtually every facet of life, but some of the greatest learning has come in the aftermath. Not only did the pandemic force new methods to emerge, but it also spurred new thinking. Along the way, the collective mindset shifted from what had to be done differently to what could be done differently.

Across nearly every sector, the pandemic forced us to rethink long-held truths and opened the gates wide for considering new approaches to conventional methods. Education is no exception. In fact, education may be the strongest example of them all. Digital learning, once an outlier shrouded in mystique, now permeates education today – from site-based classrooms to hybrid or flex options to fully online.

In the earliest days of the pandemic, missteps were rampant in schools from coast to coast — even around the world. The disruption to traditional learning was abrupt. It thrust educators into a fully online environment with no preparation.

Given the hyper-personalized way many of us live — with ads served up to match our browsing history and custom playlists that reflect our musical taste — the pandemic revealed education as a glaring anomaly.

Historically, while many schools offered online options for acceleration and remediation, those digital options were unevenly distributed and applied. Many schools lacked a comprehensive strategy for how digital learning tools could complement and support their entire instructional plan, and, as the pandemic revealed, staff were largely underprepared to teach in a digitally supported instructional environment.

Yet ultimately, a silver lining emerged from the pandemic. Digital learning has become recognized as a viable delivery method ripe with potential. This is particularly true when it comes to answering individual students’ unique circumstances or personal needs.

Take military kids, for example. These students bounce frequently from one school system to the next — in some cases entering a new district befuddled because the material is advanced well beyond their previous experience, and in others, wasting months in boredom while waiting for students in the new district to catch up. What’s more, with every move there’s a new set of peers to navigate. It’s disruptive, but there are alternatives.

For military families – and scores more — digital learning offers major academic and social advantages. ASU Prep Digital is a K-12 online program that fully integrates with Arizona State University. It operates within the ASU Prep network of K-12 schools, which have become a model for offering a spectrum of digitally-supported learning options, from classroom-based to fully online.

The programs have been embraced worldwide by students of virtually every imaginable background: Ambitious learners whose local school curriculum offers few challenges and a blurry path toward college. Youth with health conditions that leave them strong enough to learn but poorly suited for the rigors of a typical public school. Talented young musicians, artists and athletes whose rigorous practice and performance schedules demand greater flexibility than most districts allow. Young men and women in the war-ravaged Ukraine, who recognize education as the key to a brighter future.

New Models Gain Traction

Interest in alternative learning models has steadily grown since the pandemic emerged. Yet to be clear, the technology isn’t new. Online learning has been happening for decades. What is new is a heightened awareness that not all students learn in the same way, at the same pace, in the same environment — and that’s spurring an unprecedented level of innovation in the education sector.

The result is a steady depolarization. Students no longer have to choose strictly in-person or strictly online. The lines are blurring to accommodate students’ unique needs.

At the core of this forward thinking is a critical question: How do you want to learn? ASU Preparatory Academy offers a glimpse at how putting personalized student needs at the core can shape modalities and offerings. An accredited college preparatory school that serves students in grades K-12, ASU Prep is chartered by Arizona State University. Founded in 2008 with a single live campus, by 2017 ASU Prep had expanded its in-person offering and launched ASU Prep Digital, built on the same college preparatory framework but with classes exclusively online and available to both full- and part-time students anywhere in the world.

Today, ASU Prep’s continuum of options spans on-site immersion campuses in and around Phoenix on one end and fully flexible, any-time-anywhere programs on the other, all designed to keep students on an accelerated path toward college. In on-site classrooms, teachers embrace blended learning as they learn how to leverage digital tools to maximize personalization for each student.

Students and their families can also find a range of hybrid and microschool programs tailored to their unique learning needs and preferences. In addition to five-day in person campuses, two hybrid campuses in the Phoenix metro bring students to the classroom three days a week, leaving two days for more flexible learning.

ASU Prep Local is one of the new hybrid programs designed for online students who crave more personal interaction than a fully virtual model allows; digital coursework is enhanced with in-person collaboration, discussion and project-based learning in small group settings. Moving further along the continuum, the ASU Prep Experience, another hybrid model, provides a single day each week for college-bound online high school students to acclimate to the college environment by attending class on the Arizona State University campus. Both programs answer the growing interest in microschools among families attracted to smaller cohorts and targeted but flexible learning opportunities.

New enrollments at the fully virtual ASU Prep Digital remain strong, although most area schools have long since resumed regular in-person schedules. However, perhaps most telling of the need for more tailored learning options is the strength of the new hybrid modalities, each of which has surpassed enrollment projections at launch and continues to expand to meet growing demand.

Looking Ahead

After the pandemic, there was a rush to “return to normal,” which for many meant a return to traditional classrooms. The challenge, though, is that students need more options — not fewer. Online or hybrid models aren’t for every student, but they may be just the ticket for the student who is not thriving in the classroom or the student whose personal circumstances dictate a need for flexibility.

The future of learning is personalized – it meets students where they are, it assesses what they know, adapts content in real time to ensure comprehension, offers up new modalities if they need to learn differently and stays with them throughout their journey.

Welcome Ryan Garza

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Assistant Principal, ASU Prep Polytechnic 7-12

ASU Preparatory Academy is pleased to welcome Ryan Garza to the team. Garza is a passionate education advocate who has taught in the classroom as well as held associate principal roles. Having been in the education field for more than five years, he has strong skills in communication, technology, and organization.

His persevering work ethic and diligence earned him a distinguished nomination to the National Society of Leadership and Success.

Garza received his master’s degree from North Central University. He is currently working toward a Doctor of Education in curriculum and teaching.

Assistant Principal Ryan Garza can be reached at:

Welcome Stephen Rothkopf

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Principal, ASU Prep Polytechnic 7-12

ASU Preparatory Academy is pleased to welcome Stephen Rothkopf to the team. With more than 20 years of international leadership and teaching expertise, Rothkopf has held a variety of executive positions including principal, deputy principal, and director of curriculum.

Rothkopf believes that a principal’s vision and focus must be on empowering student learning. He seeks to lead by example and demonstrates commitment, creativity, and confidence in implementing strategic goals. His innate ability to connect with others inspires students and teachers alike.

Rothkopf holds two M.Ed. degrees: Educational Leadership from Arizona State University, and Educational Technology from Northern Arizona University.  

Principal Stephen Rothkopf can be reached at: