Twelve teachers in Gilbert public and charter schools have something special to be grateful for this season thanks to Fiesta Bowl Charities, the charitable arm of the organization that handles the celebrated end-of-the-season football game.
They are among 200 teachers statewide who each will receive $2,500 through the organization’s Wishes for Teachers program, which distributes $500,000 through Desert Financial Credit Union to teachers who apply for consideration.
The wishes ranged from new classroom furniture made by two teachers at the chartered Gilbert Arts Academy to a Pioneer Elementary teacher Linda Sadusky’s wish for money to buy materials for “baskets of challenges” aimed at keeping online students engaged in their virtual learning.
The 200 teachers represent 161 schools and 70,000 students in 67 school districts.
“Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers has been built into the preeminent program for teacher support,” said Fiesta Bowl board Chairman Patrick Barkley. “My mom was a teacher and we all know teachers who inspire us with selfless work, shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.”
Each fall, Arizona K-12 public and charter school teachers are invited to apply for a grant by detailing their school or classroom need. Grantees’ names are drawn randomly.
Over the five years of the program, Fiesta Bowl Wishes for Teachers has awarded $3.7 million to more than 840 Arizona teachers, “impacting over 225,000 children across the state,” organizers said.
“What’s more fun than granting wishes? Wishes for Teachers is even more meaningful this year as teachers have adapted to extraordinary circumstances,” said Jeff Meshey, president and CEO at Desert Financial. “Desert Financial has made it a practice to support education to honor the legacy of our 15 founders, all teachers.”
Each of the unique wishes will benefit teachers and schools in technology, reading, music, fitness and other needs.
“The need this year was more in line with the circumstances related to COVID-19, with more technology needs, plexiglass dividers and flexible seating equipment than ever before,” organizers said in a release.
“It’s been quite a year for teachers. We are honored to support them as they adjust to today’s circumstances yet still work tirelessly and selflessly every day to help our children on their life journey,” said Mike Nealy, Fiesta Bowl executive director.
Among the Gilbert recipients were Gilbert Arts Academy teacher Kaitlin Duprey, who wanted new furniture for her classroom, and Michelle Lyon, who sought adjustable desks for students.
Patterson Elementary School ( Christy Hubele ), their wish is to provide iPads for the entire class.
Cooley Middle School teacher Rachelle Hughes got her wish “to provide an inviting classroom for their students by purchasing decorative and functional items,” Fiesta Bowl Charities said.
Arete Preparatory Academy’s Rebekah Kienenberger will be able to buy materials students can use to build earthquake-resistant structures in their earth science class.
Houston Elementary teacher Brandy Kiker will be spending her money on a Smart TV for her classroom “promote a more engaging learning environment” while Houston Elementary’s Dana Leonardo gets to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing students with books and materials to help them relate to others.
Gateway Pointe Elementary School teacher Taylor McBride will be able to provide additional books and flexible seating options for her classroom.
Gilbert Global Academy teacher Katy Sawyer will be able to provide better technology for students while Islands Elementary’s Natalie Suffecool got her wish to provide their students with a classroom library.
Eduprize Schools teacher Darcy Wheeler wanted a kitchen for students while Neely Traditional Academy teacher Bethany Bergman will use her gift to buy art supplies.
More teachers in Gilbert won the luck of the draw than any other East Valley school district.