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Saturday, February 25, 2017

First a Marine, now teaching fifth grade

Kyrene Schools Chandler

Ray Urquieta discusses a new unit about technology with some of his fifth grade students at Kyrene de las Brisas Elementary in Chandler. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

Ray Urquieta, 43, spent 20 years in the Marines Corps and served two tours in Iraq. Upon retiring, he considered a career as a policeman, but his wife, Kristine, had had enough worrying about his safety.

Urquieta still wanted to serve his community. He loves kids and he had done some teaching as a drill instructor in the Marines. So he got an education degree at Arizona State University through the iTeachAZ program, which provides a full year of student teaching experience in local classrooms. He is now teaching fifth graders at Kyrene de las Brisas Elementary in Chandler.

Kyrene de las Brisas Chandler

Ray Urquieta works with Khashmier Saxton on a writing assignment. Photo by Daniel Friedman

Urquieta says being a Marine created habits that serve him well in the classroom: focus, drive, attention to detail, being prepared and keeping in mind that failure is not an option.

On the day I visited, he was starting a unit on biomedical engineering. Groups of students were given an object — like a shoe, a calculator or a metal water bottle — and they had to explain what kind of technology they thought went into designing and manufacturing it. Urquieta went from group to group, drawing out more thorough understandings of each object as a product of technology and engineering.

It’s not combat, but being responsible for the educational progress of a group of 10- and 11-year-olds carries its own pressures.

Being a first-year teacher is “a different stress,” says Urquieta.

Not surprisingly, he’s calm and even-toned in the classroom. He kids one student about wearing a University of Arizona shirt. Urquieta is an ASU fan.

The classroom is orderly, colorful and quiet and the students, like fifth graders anywhere, mostly do their work with periodic reminders to attend to their assignments and quiet down. When Urquieta instructed Marines, they were trained to listen and perform per instructions. He says, “Marines just do.” Not so fifth graders, whose tasks don’t carry the immediacy and urgency of the military.

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Daniel Friedman

Daniel Friedman is a staff writer and photographer.

9 Responses

  1. great to see mitary members continuing to make a difference in their communities! Ray is a tremendous role model for all, his humility and compassion will resonate not only in the classroom, but in his students lives as well!
    very proud of my cousin, his contributions to education and the development of our future leaders! always positive and great success for the community.

  2. Bruce Reyes says:

    Those 5th graders are privileged to have such a fine man as a teacher. We served together as instructors in the Corps. There isn’t another Marine I’m more proud of than Mr Q ( I have to say this is what the students have to call him… Not too many can pronounce Urquieta).

    : )

    Keep up the good work… Ur lists of accomplishments in life is fe nominal.

    Semper Fi

  3. Miah Seman (student) says:

    im acctually a student in his class and i think Mr. urquieta is a really great teacher , sometimes im to scared to say an answer becuase im afraid people might laugh at me and say im wrong and call me dumb. even if i do get it wrong, thats why i dont talk in class much. i sometimes struggle in class but everyday i get better and better because of Mr. Urquieta

  4. Teresa says:

    Congrats Ray. You continue to be of service to our country. Glad to have you in our field 🙂
    Semper Fi,
    Teresa Foulger
    ASU Associate Professor & Mother of a Marine

  5. Cheryl Wiens, Clinical Instructor MLFTC ASU says:

    Ray, I’m happy to read that you are in the classroom, using all you learned in my SS methods class!

  6. Octavio Mendoza says:

    Glad to see he is doing a great job and getting recognize. I know him personally serving my first tour in iraq together in the intial invasion. He always was a great and humble man.

  7. nicole perez says:

    I am a student and Mr.U is such a great teacher, I love his stories that he tells

  8. Andrea Hernandez says:

    hi i am a student in Mr Q’S Class and he is so fun. and i am so so sad because im going to middle school ;[

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