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Press Release



March 8, 2021
Contact: Christina Mazzanti

Association of American Educators Elects Dr. DeLaina Tonks as New Chairman


Mission Viejo, CA – The Association of American Educators (AAE), a national, nonunion, professional association serving educators in all fifty states, announces its board of directors has voted to elect Dr. DeLaina Tonks to the role of chairman to succeed the organization’s late founder and longtime chairman, Gary Beckner, who passed away in January due to complications from COVID-19.


“I am humbled and honored to step into the role of Chairman of the AAE Board,” stated Dr. Tonks. “As an organization we will work hard to honor Mr. Gary Beckner’s legacy and look forward to continuing to empower and support our professional educators to benefit our students across the country.”


An educator for more than twenty-five years, Dr. Tonks is currently the Director of Utah’s award-winning Mountain Heights Academy where she promotes collaboration and leverages technology to improve education. She is a proven educational leader and reform advocate. Dr. Tonks earned her Ph.D. in Instructional Psychology and Technology from Brigham Young University. Among her numerous awards and distinctions, she is a 2012 Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education fellow, the 2014 “Best of State-Principal” winner, and named as one of Utah Business’s “30 Women to Watch” in 2014. In 2016, she received the Lifetime President’s Volunteer Service Award for 5,000+ hours of service. Dr. Tonks has served on the board of directors for AAE or AAE Foundation since 2013 and has been a member since before joining the board.


Colin Sharkey, AAE’s executive director, celebrated the announcement: “Dr. Tonks is not only a champion of educators and students, but has been an important member of the AAE family for many years. She brings to the role a tireless conviction that every student can learn and must have access to a great education and a commitment to serve America’s educators. Sharkey, who serves on the board and who succeeded Mr. Beckner when he retired in 2018 after 25 years as executive director, added: “Gary would be very pleased to see who the board selected to continue his legacy.”


The Association of American Educators (AAE) is the largest national, nonunion, professional educator organization, advancing the profession by offering a modern approach to educator empowerment and advocacy—promoting professionalism, collaboration, and excellence without a partisan agenda. AAE is committed to a teaching profession that is student oriented, well respected, and personally fulfilling. AAE serves members in all fifty states and welcomes professionals from all education entities. Membership is $16.50 per month and includes $2 million professional liability insurance, employment rights coverage, professional resources, and many other benefits. Classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, student teachers, university professors, and supporters can learn more at