By Anne “AJ” Perrin

Note:  This is fourth in a series of articles on the five principals in Corona de Tucson.

The newest school to be built in Corona de Tucson is Copper Ridge Elementary School, located deep in a residential subdivision and off the beaten path.  Ms. Erica Irby heads up this school and has been its sole principal since its creation in 2016.  Prior to that, Ms. Irby served as assistant principal at Sycamore Elementary School, under the excellent tutelage of principal Mr. Ken Graff.

Ms. Irby is a native of Tucson, both born and raised here and a graduate of Desert Christian High School.  Her father was a pastor and her mother was a teacher.  Ms. Irby attended Pima College, and graduated from Prescott College and taught in Phoenix for three years.  She then received her master’s degree in educational leadership from NAU.  She chose to return to her roots in 2008 and joined the Vail School District, teaching 3rd grade and then as Student Achievement Teacher at Vail Academy and High School.

When Copper Ridge was built to ease the severe overcrowding at Sycamore, she was chosen to be its first principal.  In a way, it was a fairly easy transition because she already knew most of the students as they were moved from overcrowded Sycamore to Copper Ridge.  The transition was also smooth for teachers and office staff, many of whom transferred along with Ms. Irby to the brand-new school.  The school includes grades kindergarten through 5th. And throughout the Vail school system, she mentioned the word ACT is used all the time to remind the students to think before they act: Are respectful and trustworthy / Care about each other / Take responsibility.

Among other facets of her school, they do have students with varying needs who are well integrated into their classes.  And the school implements technology into classrooms to help prepare students for the future. The school has four mobile computer labs for grades 2-5. Students spend 40 minutes every week learning coding, which will serve them well in future years, as they learn more advanced coding.

A petite lady, Ms. Irby fills her position beautifully.  She has a calm demeanor, and yet you sense a strong determination in her.  She is appreciative of the great support from the community for the school and its staff.  Many, of course, know her from her years at Sycamore as assistant principal.  And now that she heads up her own school, she has the background to do a fine job.


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