Donna Estes Endowed Scholarship

A sickly infant, she was to spend the first part of her life in hospitals. Her first dream was to be a pediatric nurse. Later, she would decide on being a teacher. Her mother, also an elementary school teacher, would be her first example. More than a vocation, teaching was her calling. She attended New Mexico A&M (now NMSU) where she worked in the university’s kindergarten under John Julian McMahon, her mentor. She supported herself and paid her own way through college. She began her teaching career in the Gadsden Independent School District, where she had attended school herself. Over the years she was to teach in the communities of San Miguel, Anthony, Sunland Park and La Union.

She quit her first teaching assignment to devote her time to having and raising her four children. She became concerned that the local schools did not provide kindergarten. So she set out to start her own. She convinced the Anthony, Texas school district to lend her class space and she used her own money to buy supplies. She worked without any pay for the year while raising her 2 and 4-year-old children. Her interest was in teaching and wished to make her little kindergarten as affordable as possible, so she never planned on paying herself. She would later point to an ashtray in her living room, which was the sum of her “profits” from her first kindergarten. She gave up the kindergarten when she gave birth to her third child in May of that year. She did not, however give up on the idea of the kindergarten.

Soon, she approached the Anthony United Methodist Church to start a second kindergarten. Realizing she could not attempt to operate it herself, this time she acted as founder and director. She donated her all of the supplies she had gathered from her first kindergarten, budgeted to the penny to provide scholarships to those who would not otherwise be able to attend, while tuition went to pay a teacher’s salary. As there was no “extra” in the budget, the many shortfalls that occurred were met out of her family’s budget.
She also organized a “mother’s day out” with other women with small children. The mothers took turns watching all of the children so that the others had a day off. In this era before day-care, it provided one of the few respites that most mothers enjoyed.

As her children grew, so did her involvement. She went on to spend many years as a Den Mothers in the Cub Scouts. She taught Sunday school in the Anthony Methodist Church for many years. She acted as the director for the Vacation Bible School. When her children were all in school, she also returned to the classroom to resume her teaching career. Suffering from undiagnosed dyslexia, she was a particularly empathetic teacher. Other teachers often remarked that the best spellers came from her class. She attributed it to her inability to spell herself; the students learned by proofreading the teacher. Even after she was stricken with debilitating emphysema, she could not stay out of the classroom. She volunteered and taught Vacation Bible School, even while attached to an oxygen tank. She once said that she wasn’t sure that heaven was a place that existed somewhere out there, but she knew that heaven was the good things you left behind. It is to honor her vision that we establish the scholarship in her name.


Financial Need: Not Required
Class Level: SR. Student Teaching
Required Minimum GPA: 2.5
Required Major: Elementary Ed
Required Residency: NM
Other requirements: Graduate of Gadsden Independent School District.