Lynda Kitts always had a smile. Courtesy photo.

The Rio Rancho Education Foundation has a new $20,000 grant fund in memory of former Rio Rancho Middle School Principal Lynda Kitts, the foundation’s board of directors announced last week.
The Lynda Kitts Formula for Excellence is an annual grant open to Rio Rancho Public Schools’ math teachers and educational assistants in grades 6-12. The grant is broken into three categories — technology resources, professional learning, and education and certifications — ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 each, according to a foundation news release.
Money can be used for devices, subscriptions, conferences and training, licensure and more, and may be awarded to a minimum of three educators each year. Allotted funds within each category can be awarded in increments based on need, broadening the potential pool of recipients.
“As both an educator and a friend of Lynda, this grant is very near and dear to my heart,” said Patricia Di Vasto, Rio Rancho High School assistant principal and RREF board member. “I first met Lynda as a substitute teacher, and when Richard Von Ancken and I recommended her as a permanent member of the RRPS team, her passion for students and education radiated throughout the halls. Following her passing, I personally wanted to ensure her legacy lived on within the community. Together with fellow foundation board members, we developed the Lynda Kitts Formula for Excellence, which I hope benefits educators for years to come.”
Kitts, a long-time administrator and educator, died unexpectedly in June 2020. She began her career at RRPS in 2000 as a substitute teacher and then became a sixth-grade math teacher at Lincoln Middle School.
Her passion for math education, students and educators led her to administration, first as assistant principal at Lincoln and then as principal at Rio Rancho Middle School, where she remained until her passing.
“As much as she loved the students, Lynda always stood side-by-side with her co-workers,” said Jay Tharinger, eighth-grade English teacher at RRMS. “She enthusiastically encouraged us to do our best, and this grant program will allow her to continue to do so. Even now, Lynda is looking out for us.”
Applications for the Lynda Kitts Formula for Excellence for the 2021-22 school year are open and may be submitted online at
There are two application windows: spring and fall. A committee of RRPS educators and RREF board members will review applications based on a rubric developed for each category of the grant.