Secular AZ is proud to introduce you to our new Executive Director, Jeanne Casteen! Among other things, Jeanne has been a lifelong educator and advocate, mother of four, middle and high school teacher, and school board president. We’re excited to benefit from her strength, ideas, and experience. Below, meet Jeanne in her own words.
Greetings, Fellow Supporters of Secular Government!
I am thrilled and honored to begin a new chapter with Secular Coalition AZ, serving in the role of Executive Director. This is an incredible opportunity for me to continue working for marginalized communities in Arizona. In my experience as a teacher, school board president, and advocate for social justice issues, I have witnessed how a Christian nationalist agenda, promoted by organizations at the state level have systematically stripped these communities of their rights and access to opportunity. I am excited to continue my advocacy work as the ED of Secular AZ and to continue the fight for my students and my state.
Our state is facing some of the greatest challenges we have ever seen as a society. Whether it is the oppression of women and minorities; wealth and racial inequality; unconstitutional privileges for extremist groups; or the profiteering and privatization of schools and other public institutions, the outlook can seem bleak. However, I believe the arc of history truly does bend toward justice.
Perhaps my optimism comes from witnessing my parents’ union leadership as a child growing up in the Midwest. Perhaps it is because they raised me as a Chicago Cubs fan. Either way, I know that when hard-working, committed groups of people come together to reach a goal, we can achieve things that may seem impossible. This organization is comprised of people committed to the promise of a secular government, and I am grateful to Secular AZ Board Chair Philip Lentz for his leadership and his tireless work with this organization. Thanks to him and the many others who have reached out to share their knowledge and insights with me, I feel confident that together, we can ensure that Secular AZ has a bright future.
I have lived in Arizona for 30 years, and it was love at first sight. I have seen the Grand Canyon from the Colorado River, and my children were born and raised here. My hope is that their children can attend fully-funded schools, equitably access healthcare, and freely participate in democracy — as well as take their own trip down the Colorado if they so choose.
I am eager to apply the knowledge and experience I have gained over the last 20 years to guide Secular AZ through some of our state’s greatest challenges. I am a scholar of interpersonal, rhetorical, and organizational communication, and bring to the Executive Director position my experience in fundraising, government relations, and coalition building. But most importantly, I bring a holistic understanding of how Christian nationalism is seeping into every sector of our society, and what we can do to combat it.
As I transition into the role of Executive Director, one of my main priorities is to foster meaningful working relationships and collaborations with the board, coalition partners, staff, donors, and volunteers. I hope to have the opportunity to get to know you and listen to your stories, and I invite you to reach out to me so we can schedule a time to meet, virtually or in-person.
Thank you for your support and for this opportunity to serve the state that I love so much.
Jeanne Casteen, M.Ed.