A Centennial Middle School teacher described as mentor to her younger colleagues and a marketing expert who has been helping youngsters become entrepreneurs are among the five recipients of the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce’s coveted annual Champion of the Year awards.

English language arts teacher Shawndra Reid and Ahwatukee businesswoman Pamela Manwaring were joined by Desert Garden Montessori, Elements Massage Chandler West and AmTrust Bank as recipients of awards that “make Ahwatukee the best place to live, work and play.”

Reid received the Educator of the Year Award while Happy Medium Marketing owner Manwaring was named Volunteer of the Year and Desert Garden the Non-Profit of the Year. Elements and AmTrust won awards for the small business and business of the year, respectively.

The awards breakfast was the first large community event organized by recently named chamber President/CEO Lindy Lutz Cash, who was loudly applauded numerous times throughout the morning.

Cash in turn led the crowd in applauding outgoing board chair Martha Neese, an Ahwatukee lawyer who owns a Chandler butcher shop, as she handed over the reins to new board chair Laurie McCartney, marketing director for Ultra Star Entertainment Center.

Also honored was Realtor Jim Hunt as chamber Ambassador of the Year for his continuing outreach to local businesses and mentoring of other chamber ambassadors.

Reid was lauded as a “key member of various committees that impact students and teachers both within Centennial” and throughout Kyrene School District.

“Beyond her immediate co-workers, Shawndra mentors a student teachers and is a classroom practice mentor as well,” Lutz said. “This means students and fellow teachers observe her teaching style and work together on developing lesson plans based on the standards, sharing strategies for successfully imparting the standards to student.

“This is just one of the many examples of how students at Centennial have benefitted from the training and mentoring teachers receive from Ms. Reid,” she added.

As director of the chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy, Manwaring has recruited business owners as mentors, sponsors, teachers and possible investors for a class of 11 youngsters, ranging from sixth grade to high school senior, who are hoping to launch their own businesses.

The group meets weekly for 30 weeks, learning all aspects of business and working with individual mentors to shape their business plans.

“She has been able to connect business leaders, organizations and students through to this incredible program,” Lutz said. “She remains committed to the students, families, other volunteers and doing the work – even when beyond the minimum commitment requirement.”

“Pamela provides countless hours of support for our students, the Chamber Foundation and to the chamber itself,” Lutz noted, praising her for making the academy “a first class, engaging and rewarding experience for the students, as well as the volunteers who support various aspects of the program.”

Desert Garden Montessori, founded in 1996 by Executive Director Shetal Walters in her home, aims to “build a sustainable community of families passionate about education, lifelong learning, and Montessori philosophy,” Lutz said.

Now serving nearly 300 students from infancy through 11th grade, “the school is committed to developing within each child a sense of responsibility and interdependence with their community and the world,” she added, hailing Desert Garden for “developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and  more peaceful world.”

Lutz called AmTrust, the Business of the Year Award winner, “unique with its genuine desire to be a resource to Ahwatukee and its residents.”

“Their goal is to demonstrate their strength, stability and service one customer at a time,” she said. “AmTrust Bank believes in making referrals and connections among new and existing businesses and building long and lasting relationships within the community.”

“During the 10 years since AmTrust opened its Ahwatukee branch, the staff has made it its mission to serve their customers and the community with a strong sense of ownership for the success of all,” Lutz added.

“When you walk into the branch, you immediately get a welcoming feel from the AmTrust team. They take pride in getting to know their customers as people, not simply as clients. The AmTrust team exemplifies professionalism, trust and building relationships in the community.”

Elements Massage, whose owner, Janet Schwab was named the chamber’s Palo Verde Business Woman of the Year last November, was cited for its “singular focus on providing quality therapeutic massage.”

Lutz also praised Schwab for “her commitment to community involvement has propelled her business to success.”

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