top of page

Arizona Educational Foundation Names 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year Finalists

The winner will be announced, and the ten candidates will be honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Luncheon. See below for more details.



2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards Luncheon

Thursday, October 24, 2019, 11:30 am - 1:30pm

Event Sponsor + Logistics

Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF)

  • AEF has been serving the state’s public education system as a champion of excellence in public schools across the state since 1983.

  • Founded by former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Warner, Basha’s CEO and education advocate Eddie Basha, and retired director of public relations for The Arizona Republic, Bill Shover.

  • This is the 37th year AEF has hosted its annual Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards luncheon.

  • This is the 8th year AEF has hosted the luncheon at the Arizona Biltmore.

  • Learn more about AEF and the Teacher of the Year program at

Program Details

  • The Teacher of the Year program is one of 7 programs hosted by AEF.

  • Teachers may self-nominate, be nominated by a student, co-worker, administrator, school or district committee, friend or family member to apply for the award. To be considered for the award, teacher candidates must submit a written application that is reviewed by a panel of judges consisting of K-12 educators, higher education, and members of the business community. Ten finalists are selected from the written applications. The 10 finalists are asked to prepare a 15-minute video teaching in the classroom and participate in a 30 minute in-person interview. The final selection process includes review of the video, an interview, and an impromptu speech by each of the 10 finalists.


  • Spend the majority (over 50%) of the school day in direct instruction to students;

  • Be certified to teach Pre-K-12th Grade (or combination) in Arizona and work at a state-accredited public school or school operating under the Bureau of Indian Education;

  • Have completed at least four (4) full years as a classroom teacher at the time the application is submitted;

  • Be a full-time teacher and plan to continue in an active teaching status through 2020;

  • Not have been selected as an AEF™ Teacher of the Year, Semifinalist or, Ambassador for Excellence in the past.

The Arizona Teacher of the Year is Arizona’s candidate for the National Teacher of the Year award, hosted and run by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

  • CCSSO has hosted the National Teacher of the Year program since 1952. The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the State Teachers of the Year by a National Selection Committee representing the major national education organizations. Each April, the NTOY is introduced to the American people by the President of the United States.

2020 Top 10 Teachers

Below are the five 2020 Ambassadors for Excellence (finalists) – one of whom will be named the 2020 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year at the Awards luncheon and also be Arizona’s representative in the National Teacher of the Year competition. Click on their name to see their headshot. Video features on each teacher will be available in mid-October by clicking here:

  • Ben Collinsworth, Prekindergarten Literacy and STEM Teacher at Emily Meschter Early Learning Center of Flowing Wells Unified School District, Tucson.

  • Nate Rios, 11th and 12th Grade U.S. Government and History Teacher at Flowing Wells High School of Flowing Wells Unified School District, Tucson.

  • Sheila Rowe, 6th Grade English Language Arts Teacher at Coyote Ridge Elementary School of Glendale Elementary School District, Glendale.

  • Lynette Stant, 3rd Grade Teacher at Salt River Elementary School of Salt River Schools, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

  • Taryn Tidwell, Middle School Choir, Musical Theater, and Drama Teacher at Shepherd Junior High School of Mesa Public Schools, Mesa.

Five additional teachers were selected as Semifinalists (not in contention for the 2020 Teacher of the Year award). Click on their name to see their headshot.

  • Jessica Buttles, Kindergarten and Structured English Immersion Teacher at Sunburst Elementary School of Washington Elementary School District, Glendale.

  • Lauren Cluff, K – 6th Grade Reading Interventionalist at Hughes Elementary School of Mesa Public Schools, Mesa.

  • Angie Edington, Early Childhood Special Education Teacher at Faith North Early Childhood Learning Center of Phoenix Elementary School District, Phoenix.

  • Allison McElwee, 3rd Grade Teacher at Mountain View Elementary School of Humboldt Unified School District, Prescott Valley.

  • Jennifer Fowler, 10th-12 Grade English, Ed Professions, Literacy Coach at Greenway High School of Glendale Union High School District, Phoenix.

Additional details about the top five teachers

  • Ben Collinsworth: Five years teaching experience, and tweets at @AZMisterBen.

  • Nate Rios: Twelve years teaching experience, posts on Instagram at @naterios12 and tweets at @mrriosfw.

  • Sheila Rowe: Eight years teaching experience, a member of the Arizona K12 Center, and posts on Instagram at @sheils1987.

  • Lynette Stant: Fifteen years teaching experience, a member of the National Indian Education Association, and posts on Instagram at @stantlyn2.

  • Taryn Tidwell: Six years teaching experience, a member of Arizona Music Educators Association (AMEA), and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and posts on Instagram at @taryn.tidwell.


Cash awards, program memberships, travel, parade participation, and additional miscellaneous prizes are listed at

If you have questions or would like more information, contact Dan Allen, Director of Programs and Partnerships by email at or phone at 928.600.7092.


bottom of page