Beloved Tucson High teacher and coach Ismael Arce passed away

Ismael Arce (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Longtime Tucson High social studies teacher and boys soccer coach Ismael Arce passed away Thursday according to TUSD. Arce started teaching at Tucson High in 2000 and he led the Badgers to a state soccer championship in 2014.

Arce was a beloved teacher who held firm to his belief in making a better society today by teaching the wrongs of the past. He taught about issues such as the Holocaust and how the horrors of that past reflects on society today.

“A lot of people don’t understand living in these lands. People make you think you don’t belong here when your ancestors have lived here for many generations,” he told AZ Jewish Post Associate Editor Sheila Wilensky in 2013. “Scapegoating frames intolerance no matter who it affects.”

A gentle and somewhat quiet man, Arce was a force on the soccer pitch and his qualities caught the eye of many of his colleagues including the “Godfather” of soccer in Southern Arizona, Wolfgang Weber.

“The news is shocking really and I will really miss him. I’ve known him for many, many years,” Weber said. “He was a very good coach and a fair sportsman in my dealing with him.”

Coaching at an inner city neighborhood school has its challenges and this also impressed Weber. “His success speaks to his qualities,” Weber added. “He took that top talent and formed it into a team and he did it with conviction and consistency despite all the uphill struggles. I’m happy he won his championship there.”

High praise from Weber, who has coached Salpointe to seven state championships and over 600 wins.


Arce’s 2014 squad seemingly came out of nowhere but, as Weber mentioned, he molded that group of young men into winners and the Badgers went 24-0-3 including two wins over Salpointe, a victory over Rincon/UHS and four straight wins in the Division II state playoffs, outscoring opponents 11-2 in those four games. The Badgers beat Copper Canyon 3-0 in the state final with Giovanni Ahumada, Emilio Villatoro and Julian Gaona providing the goals.

Tucson High athletic director and legendary wrestling coach Bobby DeBerry sent an email to the school’s staff indicating a crisis intervention team will work with Arce’s students and his colleagues and the TUSD governing board will commemorate Arce on Feb. 9.

Personally, Ismael always treated me professionally in his usual quiet manner. His vision of improving our society was a common goal and his family is in our thoughts and prayers.

Arce with Julian Gaona (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)


Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019 and he is a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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