Archives: Schooled in Baking

By Gabrielle Fimbres for the UA College of Education, November 26, 2013

For UA College of Education alumnus Don Guerra, his baking shop is a merger of his passion for teaching and cooking.

"I made the right choice going back to get my education degree. I get to do what I love – bake bread and teach," said Don Guerra, a 2001 graduate of the UA College of Education. (Photo credit: Jen Ryder)

Don Guerra carefully works the dough, shaping it into loaves as the scent of baking bread fills his kitchen. He pulls golden baguettes from his Italian oven, moving expertly through the small space as he keeps the day’s baking on track.

It’s another workday for Guerra, a 2001 graduate of the University of Arizona College of Education.

Guerra, the owner of Barrio Bread Co. in Tucson, has combined his passions for education and bread in his role as a community-supported baker.

From what was once a two-car garage at his family’s home, Guerra produces 600 loaves of bread a week, selling them at schools and farmers markets. He shares his knowledge with others in workshops and classes.

"Everybody wants to learn how to make artisan bread, and because I have my education degree, I know how to teach," Guerra says.

The Tempe, Ariz., native landed his first baking job in Flagstaff 22 years ago.

"I just fell in love with baking. I knew I had found my calling," he says.

He eventually opened his own bakeries, turning out 1,000 loaves a day.

He and his wife, Jen, knew they wanted to start a family, and owning a big bakery was not conducive to family life. So they moved to Tucson and Guerra returned to school.

"In the bakery, I was always teaching, and going to the College of Education solidified my passion for teaching," he says, adding that he was drawn to physical education. "I thought, 'How can I enhance their other learning?' I did it with character building, team building, and problem-solving activities."

Guerra was named Arizona’s Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year for 2009. As the economy declined, however, he grew concerned that his job could be eliminated. In 2009, he left his position and opened Barrio Bread. He and his wife, an elementary teacher, are parents to Sofi, 10, and Mateo, 8.

Since starting the company, Guerra has structured his business around his lifestyle – getting the kids off to school in the morning and working throughout the day, all from home.

Customers place orders for 30 different varieties online. Favorites are the cranberry walnut bread, the kalamata olive varieties and baguettes. And Guerra knows each of his customers by name.

Guerra also incorporates heritage grains originally introduced to the area by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino. He's helping to create and test recipes using these heritage grains and is sharing his knowledge in conferences and a forthcoming film, "Rise of the Grains," which will be released in the spring. He is thankful for what he learned at the College of Education.

"I made the right choice going back to get my education degree," he says. "I get to do what I love – bake bread and teach."

Don will be teaching a course on bread baking this spring. See details here.