Jo Anne Vasquez, Helios Education Foundation

TITLE: Vice President of Educational Practice

FUNDING AREAS: Education reform and STEM

CONTACT:, 602-381-2271

IP TAKE: Vasquez is a science teacher by profession—and an award-winning one at that. Her nationally recognized expertise in science education makes her an important funder to know for anyone thinking about K-12 STEM education.

PROFILE: Jo Anne Vasquez brings a long record of experience as a science teacher and STEM education expert to her position as vice president of educational practice at the Helios Education Foundation. In this role, per the foundation's website, she "provides technical assistance in areas of education reform including Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards STEM education and assessments." So she is not the primary person to reach out to at this foundation any more, but she's still someone to impress.

Vasquez has been a teacher and district science specialist for the Mesa Public Schools in Arizona, as well as an adjunct professor of science education at Arizona State University. She also is a recognized author of science textbooks and other materials on science education. Her latest publication, STEM Lesson Essentials for Grades 3-8, is based on research she conducted while serving on the National Science Board. She is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and holds a PhD in curriculum and instruction, a master's degree in early childhood education, and a bachelor's degree in biology.

The Helios Education Foundation's mission involves improving educational outcomes from early childhood through college for children in Arizona and Florida. The foundation has offices in both states and was formed from the proceeds of the sale of a student loan services company, Southwest Student Services Corporation. Organizations seeking funding from this foundation should be based in Florida or Arizona or have programs or projects operating in those states.

Vasquez's STEM credentials have been recognized by no less than the National Science Board, which presented her with the 2013 Public Service Award for her expertise and leadership in K-12 science and math education. Vasquez is the only K-12 educator to be appointed to the National Science Board, which is the governing body of the National Science Foundation. She also is the first K-12 educator to receive the Public Service Award. Previous recipients of the award include actor Alan Alda, former Intel CEO Craig Barrett, and primatologist Jane Goodall.

Her experience as a teacher informs Vasquez's work at Helios. She recognizes the important role that quality teachers play in student success. For that reason, she is especially committed to ensuring that teachers in the STEM areas have access to quality professional development that keeps them up to date on the latest developments in scientific knowledge and in teaching methods. Vasquez has extensive experience in professional development, having served as director of professional development and outreach at the Arizona State University Center for Research on Education in Science before joining the Helios Foundation. Organizations with projects and programs focused on training and development for STEM teachers are likely to gain this funder's interest.

The Arizona STEM Network is a major recipient of science education and STEM funding from the Helios Foundation. The network provides funding and technical support to science and math instruction in schools across Arizona. Other Helios grants in science education have gone to school districts. Organizations that have not been funded previously by Helios or whose work is unknown to the funder may face challenges obtaining grant support, as the foundation supports only solicited proposals.