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Honoring Champions of Education

Elizabeth Bradshaw


1991 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year®

Elizabeth Bradshaw


Elizabeth Bradshaw
 is the 2024 recipient of the Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF®) Carolyn Warner Legacy Award.

Bradshaw is the 1991 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year®, and a 2012 National Teachers Hall of Fame Semifinalist, who retired in 2021 from the Vail Unified School District in Vail, Arizona, as a gifted education teacher.

Born in Queens, NY, Elizabeth Bradshaw moved to Tucson in 1980 upon graduation from the University of N.C. at Chapel Hill, for her first teaching position in Vail, AZ. From those early days, she would remain an elementary and gifted education teacher in the Vail Unified School District until her retirement in 2021, when she was recognized as the longest serving employee in the School District’s 120-year history.

One of the hallmarks of Bradshaw’s distinguished teaching career was infusing creative learning opportunities into classroom instruction by engaging students in unique activities and projects. She cultivated a relationship with the Collaboration to Advance Teaching Technology and Science program at the University of Arizona where her elementary gifted students participated in atmospheric and hydrology studies, geology, entomology and dendrochronology exploration and engineering experiments. Bradshaw also hosted several guest speakers from the University of Arizona and arranged field trips to enrich what students were learning.

She also recreated and revised the Vail District’s Gifted Program which led to piloting a program where all gifted students reported to a central school location to receive services. In this manner, all gifted materials were under one roof, allowing students to learn together, with Bradshaw and another teacher collaborating and team-teaching.

Bradshaw’s community accomplishments included 25 years of service as the coordinator for the Hands Across the Border Program, a student exchange program for Vail, Arizona, to increase cultural awareness and tolerance between the Vail community and the community of Carbo, Mexico.

In describing her teaching philosophy, Bradshaw explains that she creates a climate of trust, operating a democratic classroom where she encourages inquiry and builds a curriculum based on rigor and pace. She believes teachers should promote fairness and responsibility while holding high expectations for each student while instilling self-confidence to believe in their worth and power to craft their own future.

"Opening a fresh box of Crayola Crayons still gives me the same sensory thrill as it did when I was seven years old," said Bradshaw. "I was the child who begged my teacher for spare dittos, extra Weekly Readers and broken red pencils. With these treasures, I would play teacher. My bedroom, transformed into a classroom, hosted neighborhood friends, dolls and stuffed animals as students."

In addition to being named the 1991 Arizona Teacher of the Year® by the Arizona Educational Foundation, Bradshaw was also a semifinalist for the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 2012, the 2018 Arizona Council on Economic Education Teacher of the Year, and is the recipient of the 2001 ING Education’s Unsung Heroes Award for her work with Hands Across the Border. She is also a contributor to the “Magic School Bus Out of this World” book. Bradshaw holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education from UNC-Chapel Hill and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Northern Arizona University. She has endorsements in Gifted Education, Early Childhood Education, Sheltered English Immersion, and a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification.

Still calling Arizona home, Bradshaw has two children, Jacob and Eli, who are both married and soon to be first time fathers. She is a news junkie who loves to travel, bake, read, hike and spend time with family and friends. She is enjoying her retirement by exploring/recording family history, creating a backyard cactus garden and planning to learn Italian in Italy.

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