In January 2013, APS Foundation awarded Arizona Science Center with a $246,500 grant to support school districts in rural northern Arizona. The grant focuses support in the areas of Common Core, Mentoring and Coaching, Standards in Teaching and best practices in STEM. Because of the grant, professional development services offered through Arizona Science Center’s Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Foundation Center for Leadership in Learning allow each district participating the opportunity to customize professional development needs and allow the districts to fill gaps in teacher professional development that might not otherwise have been filled because of regional budget cuts. The districts participating include Williams Unified School District, Winslow Unified School District, Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District and Humboldt Unified School District.

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A unique aspect of this APS Foundation grant is the on-ground support. A Professional Learning Specialist with the Center for Leadership in Learning, Rob Robertson, is based out of Flagstaff to provide support for each district’s professional development needs. Additionally, he acts as a liaison between APS in Northern Arizona and the partnership districts providing APS staff and engineers the opportunity to work directly with teachers and students at the schools. This community-to-school connection is a key outcome of the grant and allows students and staff in the partnership districts the opportunity to learn about APS in their community and connect STEM to real-world applications.

The progress that this expansion project has made in the four participating school districts is tremendous. To celebrate the accomplishments that have been made thus far, an event was held in Cottonwood on August 22. District leaders as well as representatives from Arizona Science Center, APS Foundation representatives and community leaders all gathered to recognize the efforts and growth made possible by the grant.

The event showed the commitment to the students of Arizona and served as a  testimonial on how business and industry come together with an informal institution and a formal K-12 system to help kids to succeed as an individual as well as collectively.

Julie Coleman, Executive Director at APS Foundation was present at the celebration and spoke about APS Foundation’s partnership with Arizona Science Center and why this grant is important to the foundation.  Since 1981, APS Foundation has consistently been investing in non-profit organizations throughout Arizona and four corners area of New Mexico.  In early 2012, the foundation decided it would primarily fund STEM projects with a particular emphasis of investing in the quality of recruitment and retention of teachers, the corner stone of successful education.  APS Foundation’s goal in providing critical support for teachers and school leaders in rural communities perfectly aligned with Arizona Science Center’s vision for STEM.    Based on a long partnership with Arizona Science Center, APS Foundation felt there was no better organization to lead this effort.

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