This story was created by #ThisIsTucson and underwritten by Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, helping girls find a local troop this fall. Thank you for supporting the local organizations that support us!


With the school year underway, we have a lot of love for our teachers. 

Whether your kiddos are back in the classroom or you are, we bet you can call to mind at least one teacher who has made a difference in your life. 

Teachers, we thank you. 

In honor of back-to-school, we asked three Tucson teachers to tell us about how they got into teaching and why they keep at it. 

Toni Adelstone, 41, teaches sixth grade at Homer Davis Elementary School and has been a teacher for 17 years. She also coaches seventh and eighth grade volleyball at Flowing Wells Junior High School to help kids stay active and learn sportsmanship and teamwork. 

Larissa Walls, 42, teaches coding, robotics and environmental design to sixth through eighth graders at Secrist Middle School and has been a teacher for a year-and-a-half. Not only does she help with the school's gardening club, but she's also working on starting a Girls Who Code after-school club to get girls excited about computer science. 

And Kristi Lopez, 33, is the Walden Grove High School dance director and head coach for the school's PAC Dance Team — which made it to the live shows of America's Got Talent. Lopez has been a teacher for 11 years. 

Editor's note: These answers have been edited for length and clarity. 

Meet Toni Adelstone

Toni Adelstone is a sixth grade teacher at Homer Davis Elementary School. 

Why did you want to become a teacher? 

When I entered college, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. I was in and out of college because I was so indecisive. While I was attending college part time, I got a job as a teacher’s aide and fell in love with being around kids each day and interacting with them in a positive way. That is when I knew I wanted to become a teacher.

What challenges have you encountered as a teacher? 

One of my biggest challenges is that I want to save every single kid. If my students don't have the best home life or if they struggle in particular areas, I want to fix it — I want to take their pain away, and solve all of their problems.

What is rewarding to you about teaching? 

What I find most rewarding about teaching is seeing the impact I can have on kids and how powerful it can be when students know that I truly believe in them. My belief in them is contagious, and once they believe in themselves, they are capable of doing anything they put their mind to.

How do you hope to impact your students' lives? 

I hope that students in my classroom learn to feel confident in their abilities. I want them to be willing to take risks, and when they leave my classroom at the end of the school year, I want them to know that they can achieve anything!

What would you say to encourage a girl interested in becoming a teacher? 

That teaching is about so much more than educating kids. It's about relationships, encouragement and support. It's the most fulfilling job ever!

Meet Larissa Walls

Larissa Walls is a teacher at Secrist Middle School.

Why did you want to become a teacher? 

My family had a big part in my becoming a teacher, I have several aunts and uncles from both sides of my family, as well as my mom and dad, who were and still are teachers. They gave me a love for seeking knowledge and sharing what I learned. I want to help raise up the next generation of knowledge seekers. ...

What challenges have you encountered as a teacher? 

It was challenging, but I had the opportunity to create our robotics, coding and environmental design programs. This meant a lot of research and reaching out to other teachers in the TUSD and other districts. I met many valuable resources through the code.org training and our instructional technology department. I have been greatly blessed through this journey.

What is rewarding to you about teaching? 

When I see my students' eyes light up when they can't wait to show me what they created, or when they are able to solve their own coding error and then help another student who was having a similar problem. Observing the robotics teams as they are working together to solve a challenge. The community that I am a part of creating at Secrist.

How do you hope to impact your students' lives? 

I hope to be the teacher who showed them they can do anything; the teacher who believed in them; the teacher who helped them be the best that they could be; the teacher who never gave up on them and kept encouraging them no matter how frustrated they became; the teacher who pushed them to excellence.

What would you say to encourage a girl interested in becoming a teacher? 

Teaching is not easy, but can be a very rewarding career. To share yourself with the next generation — your time, your knowledge, your wisdom, your heart — is an amazing opportunity. You have the chance to help mold them into the very people they will become.

Meet Kristi Lopez

Kristi Lopez is a teacher and dance coach at Walden Grove High School.

Why did you want to become a teacher? 

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a teacher. I have always felt like I was born to serve others. I love helping students discover their passion and find their potential. For a moment, my life was going down the road of professional ballet dancer and somewhere along that journey a large piece of me was not being fulfilled. I switched majors in college from dance to education. I remember feeling freedom as I stepped into the calling of serving others instead of myself!

What challenges have you encountered as a teacher?

The journey of teaching is rewarding but very difficult. It is challenging to be so passionate about something that has no funding or lack of support. It is challenging to be part of a broken system. It is really challenging to watch lawmakers create laws that are not best for the kids. It is challenging to feel like you have no voice at the state or national level. In these hard moments I have to remind myself why I got into education in the first place. I believe that all students should have the opportunity to receive an amazing free education! No student's socioeconomic status should exempt them from the best, so I will continue to get up in the morning and give the kids and this system my best!

What is rewarding to you about teaching? 

The most rewarding part about teaching is watching students love and trust the process of learning! It always begins with confusion, questions and facing fears, but with time it will move into trust and taking risks which always leads to amazing products. Trust is an amazing byproduct of success. When students trust themselves, their coach and their classmates/teammates, the most beautiful art is always created! Watching my kids learn to trust themselves and perform an amazing piece of work, whether it is in front of a small class or at a huge assembly, is the most rewarding part of teaching. The joy in their eyes and passion on their face makes every second of this job worth it!

How do you hope to impact your students' lives? 

I hope they take away discipline, strength and a mental focus to tackle all the challenges life will throw at them. I hope they learn to never allow complacency to be part of their daily habits. I hope they learn to love and seek excellence in all that they do, and I hope they learn to love and give unconditional grace to everyone in their sphere of influence. These themes are part of my daily curriculum and I hope they continue using the lessons throughout their lives.

What would you say to encourage a girl interested in becoming a teacher? 

DON'T LET LIFE TELL YOU NO! There have been so many instances in my career where life told me "no" or "not possible" but I did not listen. I am a public education teacher, who runs a program that does not have a dance room, has no money for costumes, and no trained dancers AND YET we are five-time consecutive state champions and have made appearances on America's Got Talent and Good Morning America. All the "NO's" life threw at me did not stop me from moving forward! Stay disciplined, consistent, intentional and kind!

Got a girl with dreams of becoming an educator? Here's how she can get started.

Teens age 14 and up can volunteer at any of the Pima County Public Library branches. Volunteer opportunities depend on openings at specific branches but can include helping kids learn to read, shelving and sorting books and participating in a teen advisory board. Go here for more information. 

The Metropolitan Education Commission Youth Advisory Council is composed of middle and high school students from schools across the county. These students get to offer input on programs and policies that influence local education. Go here for more information. 


Find a local Girl Scout troop

At Girl Scouts, the next opportunity to get outdoors, explore STEM, seek adventures and overcome challenges is never far away. With Girl Scouts, she'll develop the confidence and skills she needs to create her own success — whatever that looks like to her — both today and in the future, in a place designed just for her. Find a troop today!