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Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF®) Expands Staff

Arizona Educational Foundation AEF header

PHOENIX, Ariz., February 5, 2024 – The Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF®) is pleased to announce the addition of new staff.


Catherine Sebesta joins the team as AEF’s Chief Development Officer.

Catherine Sebesta joins the team as AEF’s Chief Development Officer. Sebesta most recently held that position at Arizona Burn Foundation. Sebesta is AEF’s first-ever Chief Development Officer. In this role, she will establish and lead a multi-faceted strategy for ensuring AEF’s future financial stability, fundraising, and growth. With 13 years in nonprofit fundraising leadership, Catherine brings expertise in diverse areas including giving, donor management, event planning, volunteer programs, project management, marketing, and strategic planning. Her passion lies in philanthropy, promoting welfare through generous donations and focusing on building philanthropic support for organizations. Throughout her career, she’s championed individual impact on nonprofits, engaging donors in critical causes. Catherine previously taught 4th grade in the Phoenix Elementary School District for 3 years. In her off time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and five year old son who attends Kindergarten in the Madison School District.


Emily Ramirez-Lara, who joined the AEF staff in August 2023 as Projects Coordinator, has been promoted to Director of Programs.

Emily Ramirez-Lara, who joined the staff in August 2023 as Projects Coordinator, has been promoted to AEF's Director of Programs. In this capacity, Ramirez-Lara will guide and support the seven programs AEF provides to Arizona public schools. A first-generation Latina college graduate from Arizona State University, she earned a Bachelor's Degree in Educational Studies with an emphasis in Nonprofit Administration, and previously attended schools in the Glendale Elementary School District and Glendale Union High School District. Emily proudly served with AmeriCorps, honing invaluable skills and contributing to community-driven initiatives. As a College Access Specialist with over four years of expertise, she played a crucial role in guiding students towards achieving their higher education aspirations. Notably, Emily received the prestigious 2021-2022 Achievement Above All Volunteer Award from the Glendale Unified High School District Governing Board, recognizing her outstanding leadership. As a Contractor for the Phoenix Public Library Foundation, Emily had the privilege of producing captivating videos for the Dinner in the Stacks fundraising event, contributing to raising over $23,000 in support of the Phoenix Public Library. Emily's expertise in Financial Aid has been showcased through professional appearances on Univision, where she shares vital information and empowers individuals through education and access to resources. 


Skyler Bean joins the AEF team in the newly created position of Philanthropy and Outreach Coordinator supporting both development and programming.

Skyler Bean joins the AEF team in the newly created position of Philanthropy and Outreach Coordinator supporting both development and programming. Bean will work closely with the Chief Development Officer, Chief Communications Officer, and Director of Programs to ensure AEF’s programs and services are reaching schools statewide. Skyler attended schools in the Deer Valley Unified District and the Gilbert Public Schools District, and earned Bachelor of Arts Degrees in both English and History from Arizona State University. Skyler is driven by a passion for education, a commitment that deepened during the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Dedicated to supporting students and educators in the Phoenix Union High School District, he facilitated the transition to and from multimodal learning. Motivated by a desire to align his professional pursuits with his core values, Skyler earned a Master of Arts Degree in Religious Studies with distinction from Arizona State University in 2023. His studies focused on gender, racial, religious, and disability justice, equipping him to support and collaborate with organizations undertaking transformative work in these vital spaces. In his role as a Graduate Research Assistant and Coordinator for the Center for Maghrib Studies at ASU, Skyler orchestrated diverse, multimodal events and designed impactful global brand campaigns. 


Additionally, Dr. Teresa Hill, who has served as AEF’s Deputy Director for two years, announced her resignation in November. Dr. Hill has accepted a position as the new CEO for Tucson Values Teachers.


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About Arizona Educational Foundation, AEF®

The mission of AEF is to celebrate excellence and cultivate equity in Pre-K-12th grade Arizona public education. This is accomplished through a variety of programs for teachers, administrators, and students. Some programs shine a spotlight on excellence; others provide a stepping stone to help support schools and educators on the road to awesomeness. In addition to the Arizona Teacher of the Year® program, AEF also coordinates the Arizona State Spelling Bee, the A+ School of Excellence® Award, the Principals Leadership Academy of Arizona, teachSTEM, Our World, and Take Your Legislator to School. AEF was founded in 1983, by then State Superintendent of Public Education, Carolyn Warner, who felt a nonprofit needed to be established to champion public education and recognize the great work of public school educators. AEF annually reaches over 500,000 students, teachers and administrators throughout Arizona. For more information visit, or contact

Arizona Educational Foundation AEF® – Giving Arizona Public Education the Shine it Deserves | Everyone's Story Includes a Teacher®

­­Media Contact:

Terri Bradford, Chief Communications Officer , Arizona Educational Foundation

Mobile: 720-468-3996 | Email:


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