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Gift to Boise State’s College of Education Supports Nontraditional Teaching Students

shirly jester
Shirley Jester teaching at Washington Elementary in 1989.

Shirley Jester graduated from Boise State University’s College of Education in 1988, and started teaching at Washington Elementary School in Boise’s North End neighborhood in 1989. She admits her route to the teaching profession was indirect: On her first day as a grade school instructor, she was 55 years old.

“One of the strengths of Boise State is that it’s made for people like me who aren’t on the traditional path,” she said. 

For many students, the path to Boise State hasn’t been straight or smooth, but part of the mission of the university is to ensure all students can receive a quality education, regardless of how or when in their lives they begin their academic journey. That’s why Shirley and her son Jay established the Shirley Jester Education Scholarship, which offers financial assistance to students with educational gaps of five years or more and financial need preparing for careers in education. 

In its first year, the Shirley Jester Education Scholarship has been awarded to two students, Amber Alexander, a 34-year-old single parent and re-entry student majoring in elementary education; and Robyn Johnson, a parent who discovered her passion for teaching while volunteering in her childrens’ classrooms. For both Alexander and Johnson, the scholarship has helped navigate parenting and studies, while reducing their reliance on student loans.

“Thank you for seeing the value in me and investing in furthering my education,” said Johnson. “I hope to pay it forward in the future as an educator by seeing the value in all of my students and investing my time in furthering their education.” 

Now in her late 80s, Shirley grew up in Hagerman, Idaho, but soon moved to Boise. By the time she came to Boise State in 1984, she had been married, pursued a career as an office manager, and raised three children. Jay, her middle son, followed his mother in pursuing a nontraditional educational path. He joined the Coast Guard after high school, then spent a year traveling before attending Boise State. He graduated at age 26 and went on to the University of Virginia to attend law school. 

“I’m very proud of mom and I’m honored to be a participant,” Jay said. “We felt strongly about it being a scholarship for nontraditional students. We’re both very pleased with the selection of this year’s recipients.”

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