Recognizing the need for more scholarship support for aspiring teachers, board members for the Gardner Family Teacher Scholarship endowment (GiFTS) voted unanimously to increase its 2018 grant cycle to $28,000, with no scholarship to be less than $2,000.
Following its annual meeting in January, the GiFTS board issued a formal statement acknowledging the severe teacher shortage in Arizona, especially rural communities. It declared it wanted “to encourage as much as possible the entrance of qualified Yavapai County students into the teaching profession.”
Robert St. Clair, board president, explained that board members decided to make significant increases in both the overall amount of money and the individual scholarships awarded to recipients.
“In this, our 18th year of offering scholarships, it is the most we ever have designated. We are committed to do all we can to encourage future teachers to enter and to remain in the profession,” St. Clair said.
Since its founding, GiFTS has given 149 scholarships totaling $265,700.
St. Clair also noted the organization had changed its name. The new name – Gardner Family Teacher Scholarships — was selected because it makes clear that funds are dedicated to scholarships for teachers. “The prior name, Education Scholarship Endowment of Yavapai County (ESEYC) was often assumed to be some sort of official county or government entity. GiFTS is anything but that. It is a private, nonprofit philanthropic trust founded by the late Gladys Gardner. A former teacher who became a state legislator, she dedicated her later years to supporting teachers and education,” St. Clair explained.
Scholarship winners can use the funds for tuition and other education expenses at accredited higher education institutions. Winning recipients will be announced April 27 at a reception, and later that day introduced publicly at the annual Teacher of the Year gala sponsored by the Yavapai County Education Foundation.
Board Officers Elected, New Members Named
In addition to increasing funds available for teacher scholarships, the board elected officers for the coming calendar year. Those elected were Robert St. Clair, president; Cory Gardner, vice president; Tim Carter, secretary; and Ray Newton, treasurer.
Two new board members were named to three-year terms. They are Lance C. Barnes, principal of American Heritage Academy in Camp Verde, and Michael M. Holder, student service coordinator for Northern Arizona University in its office on the Yavapai College campus in Prescott.
Barnes has had a distinguished career as an educator and administrator. He is the recipient of bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northern Arizona University. Prior to becoming principal at American Heritage Academy in 2016, Barnes had experience at Liberty Traditional School in Prescott Valley, at Mountain View-Humboldt Elementary School and at Flagstaff Junior Academy Middle School.
Holder, the other new board member, has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Grand Canyon University, Northern Arizona University and Chapman University. His professional experiences include being an admissions counselor for an NAU branch campus in Phoenix, being an educator at high schools in Prescott Valley and later Peoria and having been an administrator-athletic adviser for Arizona Christian University in Phoenix.
Serving with the officers and new board members are ongoing board members Danny Brown, superintendent of Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School District; Tara O’Neil, professor of education, Yavapai College; and Ron Minnich, professor emeritus, Yavapai College.
(In the interest of full disclosure, it must be noted that author Ray Newton is a member of the board of directors of GiFTS).