Although Thanksgiving was technically celebrated on Nov. 25 this year, 400 Arizona teachers — including more than 60 in the West Valley — feted it early.
During the first days of November, in what has become an annual tradition to honor, support and celebrate Arizona’s teachers, the Fiesta Bowl Organization awarded $1 million to teachers through the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program.
“They may not wear capes, but teachers are real-life superheroes. They give tirelessly to their students and Wishes for Teachers is our opportunity to reward them for their efforts,” said Jeff Meshey, president and CEO at Desert Financial.
“Desert Financial was founded by teachers. We continue their legacy by returning as the title partner for this year’s Wishes for Teachers, in partnership with Fiesta Bowl Charities. Teachers often pay for school supplies out of their own pockets, so there’s no greater way to express our gratitude than by granting their classroom wishes.”
Through a three-day Virtual Draft Day presented by Salt River Project (SRP), 400 teachers from K-12 schools were each given $2,500 to grant a wish in their classrooms.
The winners were chosen based on a program in the fall wherein any Arizona K-12 teacher filled out an online application detailing a school or classroom need. The wishes were then verified and selected by random drawing for teachers to receive a grant. Over the six years of the program, Fiesta Bowl Wishes for Teachers has granted $4.7 million to more than 1,200 Arizona teachers, impacting more than 500,000 children across the state.
“I love Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Charities Draft Day presented by SRP, it is so exciting when we call each teacher to let them know their name was selected as a grant recipient,” said Patrick Barkley, chairman of the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors. “Wishes for Teachers is well-known around the state as the preeminent program for teacher support. My mom was a teacher, and we all know teachers who inspire us with their selfless work.”
This year, the 400 teachers represent 300 schools in 63 cities across the state, educating more than 200,000 students in 84 districts over 75 subjects, from social studies to special education, literature to leadership, music to math. Through the program, here is just a sampling of classroom wishes being granted:
• Daniel Quinones, a math teacher at Ridgeline High School in Anthem, will purchase scientific calculators for his class.
• Irene Camarasa, a science and social studies teacher at Desert Willow Elementary School in Cave Creek, will purchase equipment and resources for the school newspaper.
• Rayann Gionet, an occupational health teacher at Paradise Valley High School, will purchase updated hospital beds for the health class.
• Kimberly Skinner, a fourth-grade teacher at Wildfire Elementary School, will furnish her classroom with inclusive furniture for their classroom.
• Jordan Wolf, a kindergarten teacher at Boulder Creek Elementary School, will provide iPads for the class.
• Morgan Routh, an English teacher at Shea Middle School, will provide a classroom library makeover and purchase additional books for the class.
• Robin Zeligman, a STEM teacher at Mercury Mine Elementary School will purchase robots for the science class.
• Lara Lieberman, a community-based instruction and social living teacher at Horizon High School, will purchase updated appliances and materials for the Life Skills class for students with disabilities.
• Colette Jobin, a world languages teacher at Desert Shadows Middle School, will create a classroom library with French and Spanish books for the students.
• Liz Keith, a kindergarten teacher at Norterra Canyon Elementary School, will purchase supplies for hands-on learning for students to develop their motor skills.
“Teachers are our unsung heroes, who give so much to our students in helping them become tomorrow’s leaders. Giving them a spotlight for their selfless work and support them with extra resources is an important part of the Fiesta Bowl’s commitment to our community,” said Mike Nealy, Fiesta Bowl executive director. “Thanks to our partners Desert Financial and SRP, Wishes for Teachers help rewards Arizona’s teachers and give them a step forward in ways they may have only wished.”