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.
The Carolyn Warner Legacy Award is endowed by the family of Carolyn Warner in honor of their mother’s legacy and service to the state of Arizona as a champion of public education and advocate for teachers. Just as Carolyn embodied the attributes of a servant leader, this $1,000 annual award given in her name celebrates a former AEF® Arizona Teacher of the Year®, Finalist, or Semi-Finalist who has continued to make a difference long after their year of service as an AEF Teacher of the Year honoree or candidate was over. The recipient is someone who has remained active in elevating the teaching profession and continued to make an impact as a champion of public education.
Presentation of the award began in 2020 and is an annual beloved component of the Arizona Teacher of the Year Awards ceremony that will take place on October 14, 2023 at the Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix. Past Teacher of the Year recipients of the Carolyn Warner Legacy Award include: Dr. Pam Roggeman, Dean of the College of Education; University of Phoenix (2020); Dr. Beth Maloney, Dir. of Arts Education, Act One (2021); Karen Butterfield, Ed.D, WestEd (2022); and Andy Townsend, Elvira Elementary (2023).
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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 www.azedfoundation.org, or contact email@example.com.
Terri Bradford, AEF® Director of Communications & Digital Strategy
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