Fifth-grade teacher Alexis Sanchez

Fifth-grade teacher Alexis Sanchez leads a project in her classroom at Michael Anderson School.

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching awarded the Michael Anderson School in Avondale $10,000 as finalists of the 2021 Founder’s Award. 

More than 9,000 schools across the country that are partnered with the NIET were considered for the award.

“We look across all of our partnerships, to really look at what’s happening, not only at the K through 12 level but really at the district level. And I think Avondale as a district is doing a lot of great things,” said Dr. Joshua Barnett, NIET’s president and chief operating officer. 

During the selection process, Barnett said three components set Michael Anderson School apart: commitment to excellence, improvements in student learning, and improvements in student growth and behavior that has resulted in major drops in chronic absenteeism and behavioral incidents. 

Over the past two years, the school has seen chronic absenteeism drop from 14% to 8%, as well as a 62% decrease in the number of behavior incidents. 

“The reason for the reduction in absenteeism, the reason for the improvement in achievement is that dedication to structures and practices that are supporting effective instruction and effective education,” Barnett said. 

Barnett commended the teachers and staff at the school for their efforts and dedication, adding that Principal Lori Goslar and her leadership team are “a reflection of the school’s dedication to improvements of their own instructional practices and every classroom.”

“They are dreaming big for themselves,” Barnett said. “They take accountability and ownership of their work and then they recognize that in order to achieve those dreams, it’s going to come through their hard work and their efforts. And I think that instilling that value is helpful for all of their students and also impactful for the success that they’ve seen.”

Goslar said the award is a means for the Michael Anderson School to support the growth and results of its students. 

“We do that through investing in our teachers. With that investment in our teachers and continuing their professional development, the culture of collaboration that we have in building upon that, what that translates to is student results,” she said. 

Moving forward, the Michael Anderson School resumed in-person learning on March 15, with close to 500 of its 840 students back on campus. In the midst of the pandemic, Goslar said the students and teachers proved to follow their motto of “Dream Big, Work Hard” in order to find success. 

“We are a strong district. We are a strong school. The teachers that we have, have showed up to work every day and continue to invest in our students,” she said. “We’ve kept our eye on the prize throughout the entire time frame.”

As one of four finalists of the NIET Founder’s Award, the Michael Anderson School is always open and welcomes any new students into their program, Goslar said. 

“Our families exemplify the ‘Dream Big, Work Hard’ motto, our teachers, our administration. And with that being said, investment we have in our children, we welcome families to our school. This Founders Award of Excellence has shown that we have that commitment. We are a reflective culture, and we’re a culture of collaboration with the goal of helping to grow students into being successful members of our community as they grow,” she said. 

For more information about the Michael Anderson School, visit

chooseaesd.org/domain/180.