Fiesta Bowl Charities

Fiesta Bowl Charities had a festive celebration when the charity announced its Wishes for Teachers grant winners last year.

The Fiesta Bowl hasn’t been played yet, but 14 Gilbert teachers are cheering.

They were recipients of $5,000 grants from Fiesta Bowl Charities and its Wishes for Teachers program, which divvied up $1 million among 200 teachers statewide through a lottery drawing of entries.

Some of the wishes were for basic things others might expect the district to provide. 

Highland High English teacher Laura Hardy, for example, wanted to buy new carpeting, painting and flexible seating for her classroom while Greenfield Junior High math teacher Cathy Smith told the charity she wanted “new desks are either detached with the chair or community tables so their students can work together.”

Eduprize social studies teacher Darcy Wheeler plans to create a literacy center where students can enhance their reading habits while Arete Prep Academy teacher Patrick Vaughan plans to use his money on new chairs for his classroom to “help to facilitate a more comfortable environment for their students’ conversations.”

Kindergarten teacher Deana Underhill at Houston Elementary will be spending her grant on unspecified equipment and supplies while Arete science teacher Joe Glascock is buying new science lab tables.

Patterson Elementary teacher Melissa LaMancusa is getting her third-grade class Chromebooks so her students can “gain access to the limitless educational resources available online,” a Fiesta Charities spokeswoman said.

PamelaTan at Gilbert Classical Academy will be providing students a field trip to the Phoenix Science Center and the Phoenix Zoo while Gateway Pointe Elementary teacher Barbara Cooley is bringing gifted kids in kindergarten through sixth grade some mobile makerspaces.

Chromebooks were on Teresa Miller’s wish for the Carol Rae Elementary library while Linda Levy at South Valley Junior High School will use her grant to provide more space for orchestra students’ instruments.

And her colleague at South Valley, seventh-grade social studies teacher Patricia Smith is Patricia Smith plans to “to create a Civil War trunk consisting of items from the war kids can use as hands-on resources to learn about its history.”

At Higley Traditional Academy, math teacher Hannah Mirizio plans to spend her grant on a robot and related materials for the school’s robotics team and third-grade teacher Toni Adams at Pioneer Elementary will be getting flexible seating for students.

GPS spokesperson Dawn Antestenis said, “ “Every year our students directly benefit from the projects funded by these grants and we are grateful to Fiesta Bowl for this opportunity.”

Each fall, Arizona public and charter K-12 teachers are invited to fill out an online application to the charity program detailing their school or classroom need.

The Fiesta Bowl organization then selects 200 teachers whose wishes meet certain criteria.

“They’re great examples of the good Arizona teachers can do for their communities and their students,” a Fiesta Bowl spokesman said. “With many teachers spending their own money to improve classrooms, the Fiesta Bowl decided to lend a hand.”

The program awarded $1 million for the second year in a row.

Over the four years of the program, Fiesta Bowl Wishes for Teachers has granted $3.2 million to Arizona teachers, according to its website, impacting over 150,000 children across the state.

The $1 million grant is believed to be the largest donation to Arizona teachers.  

In addition to their financial grants, the teachers can march in the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Parade on Dec. 28, and be recognized on-field at the Cheez-It Bowl at Chase Field the day before.