Mrs. Stant named AZ Teacher of the Year

Mrs. Stant named AZ Teacher of the Year
Posted on 10/24/2019
This is the image for the news article titled Mrs. Stant named AZ Teacher of the YearLynette Stant recalls her first foray into scaffolding instruction, a process teachers use to systematically build on student experiences and knowledge as they learn new skills. 

She was 4 years old.

“I would carry around a bag of pencils, crayons, and a coloring book,” recalls Stant. “My younger sister would want to color and I would give her one crayon at a time and show her where to color.”

This passion for teaching turned into a 16-year career at Salt River Elementary School and Stant’s lifelong work has been recognized by the Arizona Educational Foundation, which named her the 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year at their awards ceremony October 24. Click here to view the video AEF created about Stant, including interviews with current and former students, or watch it below.

Click here to see Stant's live interview with

As Arizona Teacher of the Year, Stant will receive $15,000, is the state’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year, and wins program memberships and a variety of other prizes. Click here to learn more about the program.

A citizen of the Diné Nation, Stant is the first Native American teacher recognized in the 37-year history of the Teacher of the Year program. To honor the momentous occasion, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego proclaimed October 24, 2019, as Lynette Stant Day.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego's "Lynette Stant Day" proclamation is held between Stant (right) and a representative from the Mayor's office Thursday, October 24, after Stant was named the 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year by the Arizona Educational Foundation..

Stant said winning this award feels wonderful, but more than that it’s an opportunity for her to bring attention to tribal and rural school systems.

“There is a lot at stake, especially for Native American students,” said Stant, who taught first grade for 12 years and is in her fourth year teaching third graders at SRES, a Bureau of Indian Education school located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale, Ariz.

“They are the next Tribal leaders and keepers of their natural resources. They are the future adults who will make sure tribal sovereignty laws are upheld and the federal government remains true to their treaty obligations,” continued Stant, adding that she also attended a small reservation school in New Mexico during her primary years. “They are the future lawyers, doctors, teachers, farmers, maintenance personnel of their communities and schools need to ensure they are ready for their future.”

Left to right: Salt River Schools Education Board member Pat Rush, Salt River Schools Acting Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Clary, 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year Lynette Stant, SRES Principal Dr. Amanda Guerrero, Salt River Schools Education Data Specialist Melody Herne, and Chris McIntier, Salt River Schools Grants and Special Projects Administrator.

SRES Principal Dr. Amanda Guerrero, who nominated Stant for the award, said Stant more than deserves recognition as Arizona Teacher of the Year. Guerrero, whose school has a student body of about 330 students and 19 teachers, said she’s excited about having her school and Community represented by such a strong candidate on a national level.

“Mrs. Stant is deserving of the title of Teacher of the Year not only for her effectiveness as an instructor but for the relationships she builds with her students and her colleagues,” Guerrero said. “As an instructor, she is intentional in her planning and even practices lessons on her family members the night before delivering them to students. She knows her students strengths and weaknesses and is able to meet them where they are in their learning and understanding of content.”

Guerrero added Stant goes above and beyond in her teaching and travels to student homes to reteach lessons a student may miss due to absence or incomprehension. Guerrero said Stant also models effective classroom management and lesson implementation for her teacher colleagues.

“This is a proud moment for Salt River Schools,” Guerrero said. “We are extremely proud of Lynette and what she represents for not only Arizona teachers but for Native American teachers in Arizona and across the country. Lynette is indicative of the caliber of teachers we have here at Salt River Elementary School. Our school family is very blessed and I know Lynette will serve in this position effectively.”

We will continue to update this story and Stant’s journey. Keep reading to find out more about Stant, her teaching career and methods, and her goals as Arizona Teacher of the Year.

Questions and media inquiries can be directed to Taté Walker, Communications and PR Director, at 480-362-2570 or [email protected].

More about Lynette Stant

What do you enjoy most about working at SRES?
Coming to work is like seeing my family. The students and staff have become a part of my life.

When did you know you wanted to become a teacher?
Being a teacher has been a part of me since I was little. My earliest memory is me as a 4 year old carrying around a bag of pencils, crayons, and a coloring book. My younger sister would want to color and I would give her one crayon at a time and show her where to color, I suppose that was my 4 year old version of scaffolding instruction.

We lived in Crownpoint, New Mexico during my primary years of school. I loved school. Living in a small, reservation town allowed me to get to know my teachers on a personal level, because I saw them all the time. Playing with their own children after-school.

In second grade, my teacher, Mr. Mabrito (who by the way I still keep in touch with… he even still has the key ring I gave him in second grade on his keys!) taught me to love science. He didn’t realize it back then, but he was an inspiring STEM teacher. Using the natural elements around our little reservation town would engage us in small hands-on projects. Our field trips were typically small hikes around the school analyzing rock formations or looking at habitats. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was destined to be a teacher.

What has been the most surprising thing being a teacher?
The most surprising thing for me is how much I care about my students. I didn’t expect that when I first started teaching. I think about my students all the time. When I’m doing regular day-to-day things, like grocery shopping.

I have an ongoing internal dialogue going all the time about teaching, always wondering how I can reach a student, what can I do to improve my lesson, or the delivery of my lesson. I wake up in the middle of the night with Ah-Ha! moments about students. It’s because I care about them and their education passionately.

One thing that I wrote about in my application for this award is my strive for educational equity. It isn’t a secret that Native students have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to educational equity. Just look at the issues that plague Native American schools across the country, including low test scores, dilapidated buildings, outdated programs – and that’s just scratching the surface. This, coupled with the social issues that many reservations face, shows that we need positive and inspiring Native American teachers – for all students, but especially Native students.

I love what I do and every day I wake up with the passion to be the best educator I can be for my students. Our day may not consist of the perfectly executed lesson, but my students know that our classroom is a safe place to bring their whole selves, and they are cared for more than they will ever know.

Tell us about your favorite teachers.
They cared. Plain and simple. My most memorable teachers are the ones who took the time to be great educators. In high school I had a geography teacher who would stand at the door and hand out a packet of work then go to his desk and put his feet up and read the newspaper. Do I remember his name? Absolutely not. The teachers I remember the most are the ones that made me dress up and execute a well versed Shakespearean excerpt, or who sat with me well into the evening making me rehearse that musical scale over and over and over until it was flawless. These are the teachers I remember.

If I leave anything with my students, I hope it’s that they know I care about them.

What is your personal teaching philosophy?
The classroom is a community. In order to make our community function we must build relationships and we must be willing to evolve. I believe that in order to be a good teacher I must be able to see the needs of our learning community and address their needs. I believe there is no reason anyone should be left behind.
If that means I have to change my strategies or my pedagogy then I change.

My clientele is my students and I want them to leave our learning day feeling like their needs were met, that instruction was at their level, and that they were allowed to be the best person they are growing to become.

Additionally, I want our classroom environment to be calm and a safe place. I want students to walk into our room and know that whatever they bring into the classroom it is OK.

I have had students who come to school not ready to be here for whatever reason, and it can play out in big emotions with big meltdowns. Our safe place is a comfy chair that has a water fountain in the background. To me, the sound of water is healing and calming. I also have an essential oil diffuser in my room. Usually the oil is a citrus blend to help students feel energized. I also don’t like a cluttered room. My mother use to tell me, “When you keep clutter around, you keep good things from trying to enter.” I like a clean room, so we can welcome in all the goodness into our learning space.

What advice do you have for future teachers?
My advice is to make sure you are passionate about this field.
Be ready to be a teacher 24/7; you can’t turn off the teacher switch, so be ready for that. However, the very first time you see a student light up and smile when they get a concept is worth a million dollars. It is the best feeling in the world.

Be ready to do heart work. Some students don’t come to school ready for an educational day, so be ready for their big feelings and emotions that are true, valid, and important.

Lastly, never stop growing and learning. The field of education is constantly changing. You have to be willing to change with it, to modify and grow. I always say, “If there ever comes a day when I say I am an expert--I have nothing more to learn,” then I know I am done with teaching.

What does winning this award mean to you?
It’s wonderful, but more than that, it’s going to help me give a voice to reservation and rural schools. Regardless of where a student attends school, we need to ensure they get the best education possible. There is a lot at stake, especially for Native American students. They are the next tribal leaders and keepers of their natural resources. They are the future adults who will make sure tribal sovereignty laws are upheld and the federal government remains true to their treaty obligations. They are the future lawyers, doctors, teachers, farmers, maintenance personnel of their communities, and schools need to ensure they are ready to support students on their journeys toward all those amazing futures.

Looking ahead at the obligations outlined for the Arizona Teacher of the Year, there will be many opportunities to address those who make decisions about education. I want to be able to use my voice and expertise to secure the educational future of our students in reservation and rural schools.
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