Valley Leadership Names 73rd Man & Woman of the Year

September 22, 2022
News and Announcements

Reyna Montoya and Dr. Chad Gestson will be Valley Leadership’s 73rd Man & Woman of the Year. The two were selected because of their commitment to addressing Arizona’s most pressing issues, track record of community engagement and alignment with Valley Leadership’s Principles of Doing.

“Man and Woman of the Year is about highlighting leaders in our community who have gone above and beyond to have a significant impact in Arizona. Reyna and Chad have both shown through their years of commitment what it takes to address our state’s most pressing issues, and to do so with a decision-making philosophy built on principles. We’re honored to be able to celebrate these two incredible, doing-based leaders.”

Dave Brown, Valley Leadership CEO
Paul Komadina, VL Board Chair, Reyna Montoya, 73rd Woman of the Year, Chad Gestson, 73rd Man of the Year, Dave Brown, VL CEO | Photo Credit: Vanessa Herb, PXU

About the Honorees

Reyna Montoya was born in Tijuana, Mexico and migrated to Arizona in 2003 fleeing violence. She is a DACAmented social entrepreneur, community organizer, educator, and dancer. She is a 2016 Soros Justice Fellow, which enabled her to start Aliento, a youth-led organization that serves undocumented, DACA, and mixed immigration status families to transform trauma into hope and action. Aliento touched the lives of over 50,000 people, of which over 20,000 are youth through programs, educated 25,000 voters in Arizona 2020 elections, and strategically organized a non-partisan coalition that empowered the Arizona State Legislature to refer Prop. 308 to the ballot. If passed this November 8th, Prop. 308 will enable Arizona Dreamers to pay in-state tuition.

Reyna holds bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Transborder Studies and a Dance minor from Arizona State University; she also holds an M.Ed in Secondary Education from Grand Canyon University. She recently completed an executive education program from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She has engaged in local, statewide and national platforms to advance justice for immigrant communities. 

In 2013, she was the lead organizer, who prevented an immigration bus of undocumented immigrants from deportation in Phoenix, AZ for the first time in the nation’s history. In the same year, with the help of the community, she stopped her father’s deportation. She was also recognized as 2017 #NBCLatino20 and the Muhammad Ali Center as the 2018 Humanitarian Recipient for Spirituality. She hopes to share her talents and skills with the community to co-create healing spaces, political change, and leadership development of our immigrant youth and mixed-status families. 

In her volunteer time, she also serves as a member of the Leadership Council for ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation and is a Board Member at Chicanos Por la Causa (CPLC). She is also a founding member of the first Teach For America DACA Advisory Board.

Dr. Chad Gestson has served as Superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District (PXU) since the fall of 2015.  Under his leadership, PXU has become one of our nation’s most recognized portfolio district. The District has recently launched several new schools, including a Gifted and Talented Academy, a Digital Academy, and the Phoenix Coding Academy.  This year, Phoenix Union launched a new school concept never before seen in America – PXU City, a school that uses the city, not a campus, as the classroom. Gestson was recently named the Arizona Policymaker of the Year by the Arizona Health Association and the Arizona Superintendent of the Year by the Arizona Association for Public Relations. 

Gestson is an alum of The Broad Academy at Yale’s School of Management.  He is also a member of the Board of Directors for Chiefs for Change and a Stanford Hoover Education Success Initiative council member. In 2019, he published his first book, BEFORE Teaching and Learning, a turnaround guide for school leaders.

Prior to being named Superintendent, Gestson was the district’s Director of Leadership and spent five years as the principal of Camelback High School, where he launched the first and only Montessori high school in Arizona. Before joining Phoenix Union in 2009, Gestson served as an elementary school assistant principal and as a middle school principal.  A product of Teach For America, he began his teaching career in 2001.  Prior to his public education career, Gestson was a commercial construction superintendent in Seattle, WA.

Gestson holds a B.A. in English from the University of Washington, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from ASU, and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from NAU.  In 2009, he completed his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from NAU where he was named the Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year. 

Montoya and Gestson will be recognized at a reception hosted by John and Kathleen Graham on Nov. 30th at the Paradise Valley Country Club and at a Valley Leadership  alumni event in the spring. 

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