Lynette Stant, a third-grade teacher at Salt River Elementary School, is the Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.
“I am so honored to be named Arizona Teacher of the Year and standing in the company of such amazing educators,” Stant said in her speech after accepting her honor.
“I stand here at a momentous moment. I am the first Native American woman to be named Arizona Teacher of the Year,” Stant said to thunderous applause.
Stant was selected from the 2020 Ambassadors for Excellence named last month and announced at the Arizona Educational Foundation’s annual luncheon today in front of more than 600 Arizona educators, elected officials and business leaders.
The 2020 Ambassadors for Excellence are :
- Ben Collinsworth, Pre-K Literacy and STEM Teacher at Emily Meschter Early Learning Center in Flowing Wells Unified School District, Tucson.
- Nate Rios, 11th and 12th Grade U.S. Government and History Teacher at Flowing Wells High School in Flowing Wells Unified School District, Tucson.
- Sheila Rowe, 6th Grade English Language Arts Teacher at Coyote Ridge Elementary School in Glendale Elementary School District, Glendale.
- Taryn Tidwell, Middle School Choir, Musical Theater, and Drama Teacher at Shepherd Junior High School in Mesa Public Schools, Mesa.
Five exceptional semi-finalists were also named:
- Jessica Buttles, Kindergarten and Structured English Immersion Teacher at Sunburst Elementary School in Washington Elementary School District, Glendale.
- Lauren Cluff, K – 6th Grade Reading Interventionalist at Hughes Elementary School in Mesa Public Schools, Mesa.
- Angie Edington, Early Childhood Special Education Teacher at Faith North Early Childhood Learning Center in Phoenix Elementary School District, Phoenix.
- Jennifer Fowler, 10th-12 Grade English, Ed Professions, Literacy Coach at Greenway High School in Glendale Union High School District, Phoenix.
- Allison McElwee, 3rd Grade Teacher at Mountain View Elementary School in Humboldt Unified School District, Prescott Valley.
Stant said she grew up on the Navajo reservation and attended public school “where I was lucky enough to have wonderful teachers who inspired me to love school.”
Stant said that both of her parents spoke their Native language and attended boarding schools far from their homelands.
“I became a teacher, because I don’t ever want a Native American student to feel that they are not prepared to meet the challenges of college,” Stant said.
Stant is also a first-generation college student and Gates Millennium Scholar. Stant has a master’s degree in education from Grand Canyon University and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Arizona State University.
“Providing equitable learning opportunities in an environment that respects and honors Native American culture is essential,” Stant said.
Salt River Elementary’s 280 students are all enrolled members of either the Onk Akime O’odham (Pima) or Xalychidom Piipaash (Maricopa) tribes, Stant said.
“This school is a mirror of who I am. It is a mirror of where I grew up,” Stant said.
Arizona Educational Foundation video: Lynette Stant – 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year
“What I bring to the classroom is an understanding of the historical trauma that education has played in the lives of Native Americans. Although I can’t change the past, I can affect the future,” Stant said.
“As a Navajo woman teaching in a Native American school, teaching Native American students, my goal is to change that narrative,” Stant said.
“This paradigm shift begins with having highly qualified teachers in our classrooms,” Stant said. “But why limit it to Native American schools, why not rural schools, why not schools with high numbers of minority students. Our Arizona students deserve quality educators.”
Stant thanked her family for joining her at the event, her school family, and her colleagues in the classroom.
“My heart goes out to my 38 students who are standing on pins and needles waiting to hear how Mrs. Stant’s day was,” Stant said.
When she gets back to her students, Stant said she’s going to tell them, “Mrs. Stant had a great day! They’re going to be excited. Then we’ll probably share a special treat, because they’ve been waiting for so long.”
“Probably at least once a week they ask me, can we see our video, because they know they made a video,” Stant said in an interview after the award ceremony.
Stant said, “I definitely want to advocate for smaller schools – not only Native American schools but rural schools.”
“Just because we’re small doesn’t mean we don’t deserve an equitable education,” Stant said. “That’s where my heart is.”
“Every student, no matter their background or learning ability deserves an equitable education,” Stant said.
All educators are involved in providing an equitable education to students, not just those that come to school prepared with a backpack and a pencil box, Stant said.
“We must dedicate ourselves to the kids who need us the most, the ones with no backpacks, but who have eyes filled with belief that education will change the course of their lives,” Stant said.
Stant leads her grade level team, mentors new teachers and serves as a cooperating teacher for future educators. She also presented at the 2018 100Kin 10 Teacher Forum to address the STEM Teacher shortage.
When asked what makes teaching so rewarding, Stant said, “You know our days don’t always go well. We have our moments. But at the end of the day, we walk out the door a family, and I think that’s what keeps making me come back no matter how hard the day is and no matter how successful the day is.”