Salt River Elementary School Teacher Named Arizona Teacher of the Year

By Dalton Walker - O’odham Action News

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Lynette Stant Named Arizona Teacher of the Year.
Strength at Salt River Schools
A prestigious award. An incident that showed the ugly, dark side of sports. Pride and honor, anger and dejection, then resilience.
What a difference a day makes.
In late October, Salt River Schools found itself in the state and national media spotlight for two different reasons separated by less than two days.
On the evening of Tuesday, October 22, in far north Phoenix in the community known as Anthem, Salt River High School volleyball coach Kyronna Roanhorse walked her players off the volleyball court mid-match during a state tournament game after her players were verbally assaulted, mocked and heckled by fans of the opposing team for being human, for being Native American.
Two days later, longtime Salt River Elementary School teacher Lynette Stant took the stage to cheers in a packed Arizona Biltmore ballroom to accept the 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year award. Stant became the first Native American to win the award in its 37-year history.
A day after Stant made history, the volleyball team was back on the court, this time on a neutral court, competing against the team from Anthem, Caurus Academy.
What a difference a day makes.

Thursday, October 24, 2019, is a date that will forever belong to educator Lynette Stant.

On this day, the third-grade teacher at Salt River Elementary School was named 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year by the Arizona Education Foundation at a special luncheon at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. To top it off, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego proclaimed October 24 Lynette Stant Day. 

Stant, a citizen of the Diné Nation and a 16-year veteran at Salt River Elementary School, is the first Native American teacher to win the award in its 37-year history. When Stant was asked to share a few words after winning the award, she said hello to the packed ballroom in Diné, O’odham and English. As a finalist, Stant was included in a short video that highlighted each finalist inside the classroom. In the video, Stant introduced herself in the same three languages. 

“I stand here at a momentous moment: I am the first Native American woman to be named Arizona Teacher of the Year,” she said to roaring applause.

“I want to give a huge shout-out to my colleagues who are standing in their classrooms right at this moment doing what they do, teaching Arizona’s children,” she added. “My heart right now goes out to my 38 students who are sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear how Mrs. Stant’s day went.”

Out of more than 100 educators nominated, Stant took the big prize as Arizona’s top teacher.

Stant was one of five finalists for the Teacher of the Year award. All five, known as the 2020 Ambassadors For Excellence, took the stage together and were introduced in the Biltmore ballroom. The program also included a keynote address by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. Hoffman had toured Salt River Elementary School earlier this school year. She spoke before the Teacher of the Year winner was announced, praising the finalists and thanking them for their teaching service. 

“Congratulations to our five finalists being honored,” Hoffman said. “Thank you so much for your exceptional abilities in the classroom …. To have been named the top five educators in the state, these teachers have done far more than boost test scores or build student achievement—they have been counselors, they have been coaches, they have been their students’ cheerleaders and advocates, both inside the classroom and outside.”

Salt River Elementary Principal Amanda Guerrero nominated Stant for the award. 

“This is a proud moment for Salt River Schools,” Guerrero said in a news release. “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.”

Kareem Neal, an educator at Phoenix’s Maryvale High School, was the 2019 Arizona Education Foundation Arizona Teacher of the Year. He shared a few words before announcing Stant as this year’s winner. Neal talked about his many commitments that took him all across the country and what a wonderful experience it was. 

Now, it’s Stant’s turn to begin her journey as ambassador. 

Ash Phx Designs and Goodman’s Interior Structures will give Stant’s classroom a makeover, one of the roughly a dozen prizes she received for being named Teacher of the Year. She received $15,000 and is Arizona’s candidate for the National Teacher of the Year award. Next year, as one of the 2020 State Teachers of the Year, Stant will be honored at the White House.

Stant taught first grade her first 12 years at Salt River. She earned her elementary education degree from Arizona State University and holds a master’s degree in education from Grand Canyon University. 

Stant was honored by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Council a few days after the award ceremony at a Council meeting.

For more about Salt River Schools and Stant, visit www.saltriverschools.org.

Congratulations, Mrs. Stant!