Much to the chagrin of nearly every student and staff member he’s crossed paths with in seven years at the East Valley Institute of Technology, the 2013-2014 school year is Tony Garcia’s swansong.
Garcia — a “Best High School Teacher” winner for a second consecutive year — is going back full-time to his own business as an owner of Arizona Security Group.
His teachings, however, are about far more than careers in criminal justice or a law enforcement-related field. They transcend crime scene investigations, physical training, report writing, patrol procedures, tactical operations and interview skills.
“I treat them like my own kids,” he said. “The terms ‘family,’ ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ are used a lot every day. My kids have taken really good care of me over the years.”
His father and two brothers are police officers. His mother is a teacher. Melding these together was a no-brainer. Before teaching, he worked with the Department of Judicial Security as a trainer. He’s volunteered with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in a variety of roles for 12 years.
Garcia’s background and experience alone, however, aren’t why students flock to his classes. He brings in police officers and security personnel for real-world discussions. He also brings his own children into class so students grow to know his family. Every couple weeks he’d spend an entire class not teaching, and instead let kids talk about their lives and troubles.
“Most of them would tell you we sit down and care about them — it’s, ‘How’s it going?’ ‘How’s life?’ ‘How’s your parents?’” he said. “They just love that. No studying anything. They appreciate taking the time to talk about them and their lives.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.