Honoree Headshot

Melissa Holdaway

Chief Operating Officer
Arizona Charter Academy and Education Redefined

Location: Chandler, AZ
Founded: 2001
Industry: Education and Consulting/Coaching

Melissa Holdaway, COO of Arizona Charter Academy and Education Redefined, offers these three top leadership lessons:

1. See failure as a step forward. “Don’t let fear keep you from moving forward, at the very least you will learn something that will help you be successful the next time,” she said.
2. Value people. “Learn to connect and believe the best in others. They will rise to the level of your expectation.”
3. Give the gift of courageous conversations. “Conflict is never easy, however, when you see areas for improvement the best thing you can do for their growth is to have an open discussion, set expectations and truly listen. Provide the support and/or tools to help them improve and you will often gain valuable input that will help you improve as a leader as well.”

Holdaway puts those lessons into practice in her role at Arizona Charter Academy, an award winning, mission driven school serving diverse students who perform well academically and have a desire to serve their community and learn how to create positive change. The school’s values are defined by the acronym G.R.E.A.T., which stands for Grit, Redefine Possible, Expect Excellence, Accountable and Thoughtful.

Seventy-eight percent of the student population lives at or below the poverty level, and the academy is rated an A+ school of excellence from the Arizona Department of Education. “Our mission is to develop students into responsible, productive and successful citizens who will have a positive impact on their community,” the school said.

Holdaway got her start in the corporate world, rising from an entry-level position to vice president, but she was eager for a role where she could create real change. With no background in education, she co-founded a charter school. Despite some early challenges, Arizona Charter Academy has grown into a respected learning institution with high marks from the State Department of Education over the last 20-plus years.

“Melissa serves as a leader in her community and continues to find ways to assist in growing and improving both her community and those around her, including presenting to leaders,” her team said.

Under Holdaway’s leadership, Arizona Charter Academy has received many awards, including being recognized by Phoenix Business Journal as one of the Valley’s Best Places to Work as well as Arizona Business Magazine’s Arizona’s Most Admired Companies for the last five consecutive years.

Holdaway is the president of Education Redefined, a consulting company that supports schools, municipalities, businesses and nonprofit organizations in all operational areas. She earned a bachelor’s degree in management and an MBA from Grand Canyon University. She holds a Senior Human Resources Professional certification through Society of Human Resources Management and is a certified Colors Lingo trainer.

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Honoree Fun fact

Melissa is passionate about travel, traveling to over 18 countries. One of her most treasured memories is getting to fly in an F16 Air Force fighter jet.

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