Entrepreneur and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford envisions a future in which all children have inspirational teachers who encourage them to reach their potential. He is transforming his vision into action through a multimillion dollar investment in Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College – a bold move that will make a difference in countless lives.
The $5.9 million in funding from the Denny Sanford Foundation is designated to the college’s Sanford Inspire Program, which provides educators with free, online tools and resources to inspire students from pre-kindergarten through high school. Sanford established the program with an initial investment of $18.85 million in 2009.
“I wanted to create a program that would change the world,” Sanford said, acknowledging that he benefited greatly from having inspirational teachers in grade school. “I can think of no better return on investment than supporting a program that can change the lives of children.”
His recent contribution is the third-largest private donation in the 129-year history of the college, and the single largest to the college during the last fiscal year. It will allow the Sanford Inspire Program to expand in terms of scope and scale over the next three years, encouraging teachers to pursue excellence and leave a legacy of inspiration with each child they teach.
Sanford and his foundation have invested more than $30 million in the university since 2008, supporting efforts that inspire and promote the well-being of children. ASU President Michael Crow has called him “steadfast” and “visionary” in his quest to improve outcomes for young people.
“Teachers are among the most influential people in a child’s life,” Crow said. “Denny Sanford recognizes the value of a motivational teacher and has made it his mission to support the development of excellent educators. ASU shares that objective and is fortunate to be able to work with Denny to provide society with the highest quality teachers, and improve our world as a result.”
In its first phase, the Sanford Inspire Program focused on attracting, preparing and supporting future teachers by integrating best practices from Teachers College and Teach For America. Now in its second phase, the program team is developing interactive, self-guided and research-based professional development tools that can be accessed anywhere and at any time – accommodating teachers’ busy schedules.
The online resources will provide current and future teachers of a variety of grade levels and content areas with resources that can be used to have an immediate impact on their students. This includes tools and strategies for creating a safe and welcoming learning environment, helping students develop a growth mindset, setting meaningful and ambitious goals, and managing challenging situations effectively.
“We’re creating interactive learning experiences designed to increase teachers’ knowledge and skills so they can inspire their students toward powerful academic and social outcomes,” said Ryen Borden, executive director of the program. “We believe that teachers with the skills to inspire not only make children happier, but also help them achieve more.”
To further its impact, the Sanford Inspire team collaborates with other programs, both within and outside of Teachers College – including the college’s nationally acclaimed iTeachAZ teacher preparation program. It is transforming outcomes for children around the country by sharing its data-driven resources and redefining what teacher preparation looks like.
To ensure a global reach, all content created by the Sanford Inspire Program is available free of charge through the Professional Learning Library. The online library, managed by Teachers College, provides a professional learning environment for educators, and has 21,000 registered members from around the world.
“Because of Denny Sanford’s love for children, he is committed to improving their lives,” said Mari Koerner, dean of Teachers College. “He has done this through improved health care, medical research, and now through the central and all-important experiences they have in school.
“He sees that the many years children are in school provide opportunities for more than imparting knowledge,” she continued. “They provide opportunities to help give children the tools to reach for the stars. We are honored and privileged that Mr. Sanford has asked us to implement his vision and be part of the answer.”
Phil Schlesinger, Phil.Schlesinger@asu.edu
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College