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Arizona Educational Foundation Names 2023 Arizona Teacher of the Year®, Ty White

Arizona Educational Foundation AEF® Arizona Teacher of the Year® News

Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF®) Congratulations to the 2023 Arizona Teacher of the Year Top Ten

Arizona Educational Foundation Names 2023 Arizona Teacher of the Year®, Ty White

Phoenix, Arizona, October 15, 2022 Today, Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF®) announced Ty White from Willcox High School (Willcox Unified School District), as the 2023 Arizona Teacher of the Year®. Initially, there were 10 candidates for the award, which was then narrowed down to five finalists (Ambassadors of Excellence). All five finalists were present during a ceremony held today at the Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix where Ty White was announced the winner of the award. Desert Financial Executive Vice President, Cathy Graham, presented the award. Desert Financial has served as the presenting sponsor of the Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards for the past three years. White now goes on to compete as Arizona’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year.

“All of our Teacher of the Year nominees exemplify the best that Arizona has to offer in terms of educational excellence, being a role model, and inspiring students in their community,” said Kim Graham, AEF’s executive director. “We are so proud of each and every one of them. AEF congratulates Ty White on being named Arizona Teacher of the Year and looks forward to him representing us in Washington, DC, as Arizona’s 2023 National Teacher of the Year candidate.”

Ty White, 2023 Arizona Teacher of the Year

Willcox High School | Willcox Unified School District

9th-12th Grade Chemistry | Total Years Teaching: 16

Ty White currently teaches high school chemistry at Willcox High School in Willcox, Arizona. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Education in Secondary Education - Chemistry from Arizona State University, and his Master of Arts in Education in STEM Education from the Teachers in Industry program at the University of Arizona. White is a founding Board Member of InSimEd, a non-profit that creates "Industry Simulation" Challenges, affiliated with Aerospace Education Corporation (AEC). As a non-profit, they also assist underserved and underrepresented students to participate and travel to competitions. At Willcox High School, White sponsors the Science Club, the GATE Club, and the Knowledge Bowl. He is the CSO Cabinet Coordinator for Southeast Arizona, and the Southwest Regional Space Settlement Design Coordinator. White received the 2020 American Chemical Society Teacher of the Year Award for Southeast Arizona as well as the Rocky Mountain Region. He won the 2021 Rural Teacher of the Year award for the Arizona Rural School Association. He grew up outside of Globe, Arizona and is still a proud Tiger as well as a Cowboy. He manages a small cow-calf operation with his wife and father-in-law. He enjoys hunting and fishing and working in his garden. He competes in Team Roping. He is immensely proud of his daughter Arya, and grateful for all the support his wife gives him in all of these endeavors.

The prize package for the Arizona Teacher of the Year includes $15,000 from the Arizona Educational Foundation and travel to National Teacher of the Year events, including a trip to the White House to meet the President and a weeklong trip to International Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. White will also be considered for an honorary doctorate from Northern Arizona University.

The 2023 Arizona Teacher of the Year and four Ambassadors for Excellence also receive professional speech and media training to aid them in delivering hundreds of presentations during their year of recognition. AEF also has generous partners who provide gifts to the top ten teachers including a free membership to Treasures4Teachers, scholarships from the Arizona K12 Center to pursue National Board Certification, the opportunity to ride on the APS fire engine during the Fiesta Bowl Parade, and a “Fiesta Bowl Experience” package including tickets and on-field recognition provided by Fiesta Bowl Charities. In addition to serving as presenting sponsor of the ceremony, Desert Financial Credit Union provides each teacher with an iPad and keyboard case.



The Finalists, known as Ambassadors for Excellence for 2023, were celebrated during the Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards, are:

Amber Gould – 2023 Ambassador for Excellence

Greenway High School | Glendale Union High School District

9th-12th Grade English/Student Council | Total Years Teaching: 11

Amber Gould is a National Board Certified high school English and student council teacher at Greenway High School in Phoenix. She has achieved a bachelors degree from Arizona State University in Secondary Education with a certificate in creative writing along with a Masters in Education for Education Administration from Grand Canyon University. In addition to student council, Gould has also coached both academic decathlon and the school’s first competitive esports team at Greenway. Named the 2020 Arizona Association of Student Councils (AASC) Advisor of the Year, Gould currently serves on the AASC State Board of Directors and loves helping students all over the state increase school spirit and the love of learning at their respective schools. Over the past few years, Gould has also worked with Educators Rising by helping with her school’s chapter and serving on the state board to encourage the next generation of educators to take the leap into the profession. Outside of the classroom, Gould has also served as the President of the Glendale Union Education Association, State Director for Arizona on the National Education Association Board of Directors, and is currently the treasurer-elect of the Arizona Education Association where she looks forward to serving her fellow educators while continuing her love of teaching.

Beyond her classroom and advocacy work, Gould enjoys spending time with her husband Steven (also a teacher), playing with her two dogs, volunteering at the One-in-Ten Youth Center, and frantically reading at the last minute to prep for her book club.

R Scott Harnisch2023 Ambassador for Excellence

Kyrene del Norte Dual Language Academy | Kyrene School District

K-5th grade Music | Total Years Teaching: 35

Graduating from Central Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education, R. Scott Harnisch came to Arizona State University pursuing a Masters in Music Theatre Vocal Performance. After receiving his degree, he toured and performed around the United States. While touring West Side Story, he was injured. He returned to Arizona to convalesce and interview for a teaching position. He begins his 30th year in the Kyrene School District, returning to Norte Dual Language Academy and Milenio Elementary, In Tempe, AZ for the 2022-23 academic year, teaching K-5 music. Teaching music is his passion. He loves to educate the heart, mind and soul of each student by relating all subjects to his music teaching, allowing students to see its full value. For the past 15 years, he has directed and choreographed school drama productions. He has continued his Doctoral studies and is an active member in the Kyrene Educators Association. Mr. Harnisch believes deeply in philanthropy. He began fundraising for Equality Arizona (EQAZ) eventually becoming board chair. He fundraised, served as board member and Summer Intern Coordinator for the International Alliance for the Prevention of AIDS (IAPA), and has served as chair for Building Bridges, a curriculum for children that builds social and emotional skills. He embarked internationally to teach HIV/AIDS education, Human Growth and Development and Hygiene in Chennai, India during his summer break for two years. On a personal note, he is a father of 2, godfather to 6, grandfather of 4 and newly engaged.

Royd Lee2023 Ambassador for Excellence

Tuba City Elementary | Tuba City Unified School District #15

K-5th grade Navajo Language | Total Years Teaching: 9

Royd R. Lee is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, his first language is Navajo. Royd Lee has been working as a Navajo Language Teacher for Tuba City Unified School District #15 for the past nine years, going on his tenth year this coming school year. Royd teaches the Navajo Language, mainly developing conversation building among his students. He is currently teaching at Tuba City Elementary School (TCES) in Tuba City, Arizona on the Navajo Nation. Royd teaches the following grade levels daily, Kindergarten to Fifth Grade. He is one out of four Navajo Language Teachers their TCES. Currently, he is a certified teacher. He his taking classes every session towards earning his Bachelors of Art in Elementary Education. Meanwhile he is able to be a certified teaching with a state certification with his Navajo Nation-Navajo Language Proficiency, which was issued by the Navajo Nation and accepted by the Arizona Department of Education for PreK-12 Teacher Certification. Royd Lee is current member of the Arizona Education Association (AEA), he is also elected as the President for Tuba City Unified Education Association a branch under AEA. Lastly, Royd has been elected school board member for Kayenta Unified School District #27 in Kayenta, Arizona, he serves as their Governing Board Clerk. He is a former school board member for Shonto Preparatory School Governing Board also the former President of the Native American Grant School Association. He is a champion of advocating for students at the Tribal, State, and Federal level.

Annie Shanahan2023 Ambassador for Excellence

Maryvale High School | Phoenix Union High School District

9th-12th Grade History & Government | Total Years Teaching: 20

Annie Shanahan is a teacher at the Gifted and Talented Academy at Maryvale High School in Phoenix, Arizona. She currently teaches US history honors/dual enrollment, world history honors, AP government and US politics, and economics. Mrs. Shanahan has been in education for over twenty years, starting her career as a substitute teacher, moving into elementary and middle school, and for the last five years has found a home in the secondary setting. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Winona State University, and a Master's Degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University. In 2020, Mrs. Shanahan was named the James Madison Fellow from the state of Arizona which allowed her to pursue a degree in American History and Government at Ashland University. She will graduate this summer with a Masters Degree in American History and Government. Mrs. Shanahan has served in several leadership roles during her career, including being her department's PLC leader, a grade level representative, a mentor teacher and evaluator, and through the years, she has hosted several student teachers. Mrs. Shanahan is passionate about teaching and learning and plans to continue her National Board Certification in the 2022-2023 school year after the completion of her master's program. Providing her students with quality instruction in a nurturing and loving environment has always been at the heart of Mrs. Shanahan's desire for continued education and she is always looking for new opportunities to expand her knowledge to benefit her students.



The Semifinalists, who also were celebrated during the Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards, are:

  • Jaime Camero (Science/ELA), Douglas Elementary, Flowing Wells Unified School District

  • Zel Fowler (Gifted Education), Emerson Elementary, Phoenix Elementary School District

  • Erin Henderson (English/AVID), North High School, Phoenix Union High School District

  • Christina Musselman (General Education), Starline Elementary, Lake Havasu Unified School District

  • Robyn Yewell (General Education), Winifred Harelson Elementary, Amphitheatre Public Schools


To make a donation or for sponsorship inquiries for 2024 TOY, please contact Kim Graham at


AEF TOY 2023 Press Release
Download PDF • 375KB


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About Desert Financial Credit Union

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

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

­­Media Contact:

Melissa Kaszuba, Urias Communications, for AEF®

Email: | Phone: 732-865-6687

Terri Bradford, AEF® Director of Communications & Digital Strategy

Email: | Mobile: 720-468-3996


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