US journalist beheaded by ISIS militants taught in Phoenix - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

US journalist beheaded by ISIS militants taught in Phoenix

James Foley at Lowell Elementary School for 1998-1999 school year. (Source: Phoenix Elementary School District) James Foley at Lowell Elementary School for 1998-1999 school year. (Source: Phoenix Elementary School District)

The American journalist beheaded by ISIS militants in Syria had ties to Arizona.

James Foley worked as a teacher in the Valley.

From 1996 to 1999, he taught through the Teach for America program at Lowell Elementary School in Phoenix.

"I was drawing in class, and some of the other teachers were like, 'Hey, man, he's a bad kid,' and he said, 'Let me work with him; let me help him out," said Jose Carrizoza. Foley, his social studies teacher and basketball coach, was his role model and took him under his wing. 

"He would pick me up. We'd go play basketball. He'd take us out to eat, things like that," Carrizoza said. "He gave me that quality to pick up and be that positive person myself and see positives out of negatives."

"[His] smile would shine up the whole classroom. If there was a cloudy moment in there, he would take the cloud away just with a smile," said Edward Farines, who had Foley as a teacher in seventh and eighth grade. He most recently saw him at a 2010 reunion and can't believe he won't see that smile again.

"There's nothing you can possibly even say or do to bring back a person like that," Farinas said. "I just wish there was a lot more people like that in this world."

The school district sent out a statement saying:

It is with sadness that we learned of the reported killing by ISIS of former Lowell Teacher, Mr. James Foley. James Foley was a teacher at Lowell School in Phoenix Elementary School District #1 from 1996-1999 through Teach for America. We are honored that such a brave citizen served the students of our district. We are deeply saddened by his death.

We send our condolences to his family and friends. We will honor Mr. Foley throughout our schools and district.

Thank you,
Dr. Myriam Roa
Superintendent, Phoenix Elementary School District #1

Teach For America sent a statement saying:

We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the horrific loss of James (Jim) Foley, a talented independent journalist and TFA alumnus (Phoenix '96).

Jim always had a remarkable spirit. As a passionate teacher, he devoted his time to ensuring the success of every student – and as a journalist, he was committed to seeking the truth and reporting with the utmost integrity. He will be severely missed by all of those whose lives he touched.

Our thoughts and condolences are with Jim's family, friends and all of his loved ones at this most difficult time.

Former Maricopa County supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said the school where Foley taught serves kids in the Grant Park neighborhood where she and her husband run youth programs.

"Violence is never a solution to disagreement. The loss of James Foley hits close to home. I offer my condolences to his family and those who were close to him. He will be remembered for his service to the community teaching inner-city kids at Lowell School, where children from the Grant Park neighborhood attend," Wilcox said.

On Wednesday, CBS News learned the U.S. military tried but failed to rescue Foley earlier this summer.

The U.S. launched a new barrage of airstrikes against Islamic State extremists Wednesday and weighed sending more troops to Iraq as President Barack Obama vowed to be relentless in pursuit of the terrorist group that beheaded Foley and is holding other U.S. citizens hostage.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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