AZ Teacher of the Year encourages students considering teaching, seeks equity - AZEdNews
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AZ Teacher of the Year encourages students considering teaching, seeks equity

Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2020 Teacher Of The Year Lynette Stant With Students In Her Third Grade Class At Salt River Elementary School. Photo Courtesy Of Arizona Educational Foundation

Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2020 Teacher of the Year Lynette Stant encourages students interested in teaching to get in the classroom and start helping students.

Stant, who is Navajo, is the first Native American woman named Arizona Educational Foundation Arizona Teacher of the Year.

“Being a Native American educator is so important,” said Stant, a third-grade teacher at Salt River Elementary School. “I teach in a reservation school. I know it is too valuable for those students to see teachers who look just like them.”

Video by Brooke Razo/ AZEdNews: Arizona Teacher of the Year Lynette Stant

“It’s important for Native American students to see role models who look just like them so that they know they can achieve and move beyond whatever situation that they’re coming from,” said Stant, has taught for 15 years at Salt River Schools in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which is surrounded by Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale and Fountain Hills.

“I grew up on a reservation school. I tell that to my students all the time,” said Stant who attended elementary school in New Mexico and elementary and high school in Tuba City in Arizona. “Just because you grow up in a reservation school does not limit you. In fact, that makes you unique and you are ready for the world.”

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Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2020 Teacher of the Year Lynette Stant with students in her third grade class at Salt River Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Arizona Educational Foundation

Stant recently spoke on equity at the Arizona School Boards Association and Arizona School Administrators Annual Conference in Phoenix.

After Stant introduced herself in Navajo, she said, “Native Americans have always struggled to get an equitable education, starting way back when they were attending boarding schools and even now to the present day.”

“There are 43,000 Native American students in Arizona who are attending public schools, and that comprises about 5 percent of Arizona’s student population,” Stant said. “However, in that 5 percent we have a 65 percent drop out rate. This definitely is data that hasn’t changed in many years.”

Related article:
Lynette Stant named AEF 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year

Stant talked about how her father started school when he was 8 years old in the New Mexico town he grew up in. They rode six miles from their home in a horse-drawn wagon, then they ran four miles to the trading post where they waited for the school’s horse-drawn wagon to come pick them up to take them to school.

“I teach Native American students. Our population is 100 percent Native American and we are 100 percent free- and reduced-price lunch,” Stant said. “Even though we are housed between Fountain Hills, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe we still are a reservation school. Our resources are thin. We often have to go outside to look for resources.”

“My platform as I move forward in 2020 is to talk about equity, to bring equitable services to light among rural and reservation public schools,” Stant said. “So I ask you as Arizona school board members to stand with me and to support that platform. What does equity look like in your community and how can I bring that to light?”

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Arizona Teacher of the Year Lynette Stant after the Arizona School Board’s Golden Bell luncheon. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

After her speech, Stant graciously answered the following questions.

Q: What would you say to students considering a teaching career?

Lynette Stant: I definitely would tell students considering the teaching field to do it.

To jump feet first, because I jumped feet first.

I honestly went into teaching very naïve, thinking oh, I’m going to get the summers off and I’m going to get some breaks.

What I didn’t realize is how much of the breaks that you do give up, but it’s in a good way.

I love being in my classroom all the time. It has been my passion ever since.

I think what I would definitely tell them is this has to be your passion, because the rewards don’t come in a monetary sense.

They come with students’ smiles and learning and seeing students achieve things that were hard for them.

So if you’re going into the teahing field, you have to be ready for that.

It is one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done in my life.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching?

Lynette Stant: The most rewarding aspect of teaching is just the ability to see my kids everyday and knowing that I’m inspiring them to do better every day.

Seeing them grasp a concept that they struggled with, and seeing the light in their eyes, and helping them realize that they can do something.

Even though something is hard, helping them understand that the hard part is our brain learning, and when they understand that they’re more than willing to give you 100 percent.

Q: What is the most challenging part of teaching?

Lynette Stant: Definitely a lot of the social issues they come into school with that you know that you don’t have impact on – whether that’s in their families or their living situations.

Thing like that, you want to help with so much but really you can’t do a lot.

That ties into the rewarding part, making sure that their school day is … that I give 100 percent of myself to them so that they know that school is a safe place to be, that it’s a fun place to be, and that they’re accepted no matter what they come in the door with.