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Once Higley High graduates, now Higley teachers

HUSD Alumni

Once Higley High peers, now Higley teachers, Clay Ashworth, Vanessa Blades and Lindsay Pierce graduated from Higley High School together in 2014. After pursuing higher education, all three returned to the Higley Unified School District this year to nurture the next generation of leaders as first-year teachers.

Even though the three were involved in different activities while growing up in the district, they were all inspired to become teachers.

Click here to learn more about Clay, Vanessa and Lindsay's journeys from alumni to teachers. 

Mr. Clay Ashworth

Clay Ashworth is playing it forward as a band teacher of many hats. He holds the music teacher and band director position for Bridges, Power Ranch and Coronado elementary schools. In addition, he is the percussion caption head for Higley High School and Sossaman Middle School. His passion for teaching began to crescendo when he was the drumline section leader during his junior year at Higley High.

“Just the act of giving them my knowledge and then having them grow from that … is super inspirational, super amazing,” Ashworth said. “Why not make this a living, right? I want to love my job when I grow up, so why not do what I love?”

He decided he would teach band, and he continued to come back to Higley High to help the marching band while in college.

Equipped with his love of music, he is now inspiring the future generation of musicians.

“It’s just kind of cool to be back, part of the community again, part of the band community for sure and a part of this whole Higley legacy kind of thing where I am now teaching kids what I learned … keeping that whole full-circle thing going on.”

Ms. Vanessa Blades

Vanessa Blades always knew she wanted to be a teacher — even as a fourth grader at Power Ranch Elementary. She would ask for extra worksheets to bring home to “play school” with. Now, she is living her dream as Ms. Blades, a third-grade teacher at Centennial Elementary.

Blades said she did her senior project on teaching while at Higley High, and did the whole report based on her experiences shadowing a teacher at Centennial.

“Ever since I was in kindergarten honestly, I would play school and just pretend I was a teacher, and I don’t know, it is just something I’ve always done,” Blades said. “When I was in third grade, I was really shy. I would call myself a teacher’s pet. I always wanted to help grade papers and take home the extra worksheets to play school with.”

She said her passion for teaching always drives her to introduce new and engaging ideas into her students. One such idea that she brought to her classroom was a stage. She constructed a stage with her stepdad over the summer to give students an exciting way to introduce themselves on the first day of school.

No longer playing pretend, she is inspiring Higley’s youth to reach their full potential. She’s also set her goals for her first year of teaching.

“My goal is to just make a difference in the lives of my students. I just want them to know that I care about them, and I want them to be successful and enjoy every moment that they have in my classroom,” she said.

Ms. Lindsay Pierce

Lindsay Pierce was an eighth-grader when a teacher’s efforts gave her an epiphany -- “I want to be a teacher.” Now she is teaching students at Higley’s Cortina Elementary to help them achieve their own “a-ha” moments.

“When I really, truly decided that I wanted to be a teacher was in eighth-grade because of my eighth-grade math teacher,” Pierce said. “I absolutely loved her, and before I had her class I hated math. It was my least favorite subject. I could not stand it.”

Pierce said her opinion changed after her teacher made the seemingly dreadful subject fun. Her eighth-grade teacher used catchphrases, was personal and made it, “known that she cared about us and really wanted us to succeed.”

“That’s when my love of math started and then I started thinking I want to be able to give that same feeling to other students. I want to be able to help people feel that way when they get something for the first time and they truly start to love it.”

Now, Pierce follows in the footsteps of her teacher and strives to fill students with a curiosity for learning and help them gain exciting insights.

“My most memorable teaching experience was when one of my students literally had an ‘a-ha’ moment, and he was like ‘oh, I get it,’” Pierce said. “As teachers, that’s our goal: to help students get something they didn’t understand before."