A teacher’s scholarship for teachers: ‘giving beyond’ as her grandfather taught


Erik Ketcherside

Kathy Arner (BAE '76) has worked in education all her professional life, as a schoolteacher, afterschool program administrator and private tutor. When she and her husband, Jim, were considering funding a scholarship at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Kathy reached back two generations in her family for inspiration.

Since 2007, the Thomas F. Cain Memorial Scholarship has supported 25 Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College students in their senior year residency. The need-based scholarship is available to seniors maintaining a 3.0 GPA in the elementary education or special education program.

Meet Kathy

What was your ASU education degree and what did it lead to?

I got a Bachelor of Arts in Education in Elementary Education and Special Ed in 1976. After that I taught early education — K through 3 — in Virginia and New Jersey. When we moved back to Arizona in ’84, I worked at New Way, a school in Scottsdale for kids with learning disabilities. I was there till 1986, then took 10 years off after my first daughter was born.

What took you east, and what brought you back?

My husband was in the Coast Guard. But after Jim had done his four years, he decided he didn’t want to keep moving around every couple of years. He said, “Let’s go home and settle,” and we moved back here to be close to family. My parents were here and so was Jim’s family. We decided instead of traveling we would come home and raise our own family here.

So you’re Arizona natives?

I was born in Iowa and raised in South Dakota. We lived in Sioux Falls till I was 16, and we moved to Scottsdale when my dad semi-retired in 1969. I graduated from Saguaro High School in 1972. Jim is from Omaha, but he was raised mostly here since second grade. We’re both Midwesterners at heart.

What does Jim do?

He’s been an engineer but he’s retired now. He worked for Allied Signal and for IBM. Now he volunteers for the Nature Conservancy and also at the Phoenix Zoo.

And your daughters?

The girls are grown now. One is a teacher in Spokane, Washington. The other lives here in Phoenix and is a social worker for the Gilbert School District.

When you were home with them when they were young, did you miss teaching?

I still worked part time. I was in the Paradise Valley School District as an assistant to the reading specialist and as a classroom aide. I actually did more classroom work than when I was teaching! It was a lot of fun. And I tutored some, after school. I still do.

You’ve done a lot of work for afterschool programs. How did that start?

My love for afterschool programs began with a job at the YWCA in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1979. After we moved to Phoenix I began volunteering with a group from our church for the afterschool program at the KEYS Community Center. The old KEYS Market on 24th Street and Broadway had been turned into an afterschool and community center, and in the summer of 2007 I was asked to lead their summer school program. I was also employed there as an afterschool teacher for two years. Now I’m tutoring for MentorKids at the old Brooks Academy site in south Phoenix. I also have a private tutoring student.

The scholarship you and Jim created in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is called the Thomas F. Cain Memorial Scholarship. Who was Thomas Cain?

That was my grandfather. He always went by T.F. Cain. He was a wonderful man — just the old-school Irish. Great work ethic. He owned a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mason City, Iowa, and I loved his job. He always brought home samples for us to try and would have us do blind taste tests. All the

Thomas F. Cain (1881-1964)

"T.F." Cain (1881-1964) was a Coca-Cola bottler in Mason City, Iowa

 cousins would line up and we had to tell him which ones we liked.

What made you want to name the scholarship for him?

He was one of those inspirational people. There was something about him and the way he taught us to do things. He always said to work hard, because, “It doesn’t seem like it’s going to pay off now, but it always will.” And he always told me to do whatever I wanted to do, “just make sure it’s an honest living.” From him, I got a very wholesome view of the concept that you get out of things what you put into them, and then you should give. Always give to others. Don’t worry about you so much. Give, and go beyond.

To me, the scholarship, and the reason I named it for him, is because I know what it’s like for education students. I worked some during college because I decided I needed to do that. All my friends were working. It was really hard. And I know that, for student teachers today, there is no way they can work, go to school, take classes and student teach. The opportunity to be able to pass a little sigh of relief on to somebody else is a neat thing. It’s giving beyond.

Why did you decide to give to Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College?

I got a great educational experience there, and what they’re doing now in the school of education is just amazing. I just want to push that out there because we need excellent teachers, and this college produces excellent teachers.

If you were personally handing the scholarship check to an MLFTC student, what would you tell them?

I would tell them, “This gift enables you to have more time to spend on students and not have to worry about some of your expenses. It’s a gift that frees you up to not have some of the pressure of worrying about work and funds.”

I think about them having to rush to work, and then while they’re at work they’re worrying about all the other things they’re doing: writing lesson plans in their heads, knowing they have to be there tomorrow when they work till eleven o’clock at night and have homework. To me, to be able to give the scholarship so somebody doesn’t have to do that is the best thing.

If one of the students who received your scholarship was to come back to you in 10 years, what would you like to hear from them?

I would love to hear how much they enjoy their teaching experience, and how much the gift that I and others gave made it so they could put more of their heart in their profession.

People that are teachers have the biggest hearts. We don’t do it for the money, but it takes a lot of money to get there.