AZ – SB 1051 – The High-Quality Teacher Pilot Program

SB1038 came about because Arizona schools were no longer offering physics. As teachers left, schools chose to eliminate programs as there was no one to teach this subject. We eventually got down to 159 certified and active physics teachers teaching in Arizona schools, both public and private. A new bill hitting the capitol this month, SB 1051 will seek to extend SB 1038.  It will give us the ability to collect more data on longevity and teacher retention and help put a dent in this critical STEM issue.

This program gives STEM teachers already in the field the ability to apply for scholarships to re-certify in a field higher than their current level. An incentive to motivate folks to help us fill critical hard to fill upper level science position such as physics, chemistry, and dual enrollment. By every measure an investment in human capitol for the benefit of our students.

The program was a huge success and in 2017-2018 it awarded 150 teachers 2000$ in funding for in state tuition. The data we generated a year later showed us that the need is very real.  Nearly 300 people applied and numerous folks later expressed to us the desire that this program could have been expanded further.

Just some of the feedback we have received looks like this:

“The bill helped me find a passion for physics I didn’t know was there. It allowed me to take a workshop on modeling instruction that opened up my eyes to a new way of teaching. It has inspired me to pursue an advanced degree in science to give myself a stronger background in physics and chemistry. It has inspired me to a journey of awareness and active engagement of realizing the issues with science education in our state. I have met a lot of great people and am personally trying to persuade as many colleagues as I can to take a look at this amazing way of teaching science.”




As a high school instructor wanting more opportunities to grow and enrich our practice, we have to take more classes and further our own education. Since money isn’t the reason we get into the field, it is a huge help for us to receive financial aid when it comes to advancing fields by taking more classes and possibly working towards another degree. Having the scholarships that help support us mean the world to us as instructors. Having the support from anywhere we can get it is always very appreciated. Thank you for whatever help and assistance you can do to help support local public-school educators. 




Since the projects inception a lot has happened. Our public policy project did not go unnoticed in the science community. Soon after, we formed a team we call the “The Cactus Caucus”. Our team is made up of physics and STEM professionals from across the valley.  When we first started meeting 2 years ago, we laid out a timeline of what we hoped to accomplish. Our end goal being that we want to double the number of physics teachers in Arizona in 5 years. Our game plan very simply is to play the long game. Create a program that has the possibility of achieving our goal, analyze results, and report out our findings back to the state without bias and based in science.

Our team soon took the interest of the American Institute of Physics and the American Physics Teachers Association and soon we soon found ourselves a graduate study project in physics educational public policy. This added side benefit is another blog post that you can check out at:

Our Story in Physics Public Policy – http:/

Our goal for the next few months is to get others to see the data and progress we have made with our initial bill and to convince others that this program has the potential to turn back a needle from empty back to full.

The new bill SB 1051 is being sponsored by Sylvia Allen and has support from numerous members of the legislature in both houses.  The new proposal will ask for 3 years of funding at two hundred thousand dollars per year or roughly double the initial one- year program

These funds will be tracked and we will continue to closely monitor our numbers both in terms of teachers in the field, certifications achieved, and students as we say “touched” by the programs or outreach.  Currently there is nothing out there, anywhere, that is doing this. There are programs for new grads, and some for graduate students. However, there is not currently anything to incentivize teachers already teaching to go back to school and get certifications in these high need areas.

With an estimated 1 billion in surplus for the next fiscal cycle, it would be irresponsible not to invest in one of our most fragile education sectors and prevent its extinction.  Our STEM Pipeline is brittle and leaky. We need programs like SB 1051 and more of them if we are going to catch up to the rest of the world both economically and scientifically.  Arizona has a chance in this next legislative cycle to do some really good things and I would encourage all lawmakers to continue to advance and champion programs like this in order to benefit STEM in our Schools.







Mike Vargas

My name is Mike Vargas. I am a proud recipient of the 2014 ASTA Arizona HS Science Teacher of the Year award and I am a 2016 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year Ambassador for Excellence. I earned my undergraduate degree from Northern Arizona University where I was Vice – President of the Associated Students, a recipient of the Gold Axe, and President’s Prize awards. I am an advocate for physics first instruction and I am leading a movement to double the current number of physics teachers in Arizona in the next 5 years. I teach high school physics at Pinnacle High School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District.

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