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Flagstaff teachers granted wishes as part of statewide program

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Teacher Wishes Coming True

Susan Brown, a science teacher at Northland Prep Academy, stands in her classroom Wednesday morning. Brown is one of three Flagstaff educators who received a classroom improvement grant as part of a statewide program.

Teachers across Arizona had their classroom wishes granted in November, and three Flagstaff teachers of the 400 total were among those receiving grants as part of the 2021 Wishes for Teachers charity that will help fund their dream classroom projects.

Wishes for Teachers is an annual charity organized by Desert Financial Credit Union and the Fiesta Bowl. A draft event is hosted in November to select which applicants will receive grants.

Patrick Barkley, Fiesta Bowl’s board chairman, said the idea was to put the grants in teachers hands, as they best know their students' needs.

“We wanted to make sure that we were giving back to teachers who really have at times gone into their own pockets to try and provide different things for the students,” he said. “… Whether it's science equipment or electronics...I think we’ve all benefited from those teachers that have been really been dedicated to having an impact on us.”

The program has been running for six years and has given out more than 1,200 grants, a total of $4.7 million. In 2021, 400 K-12 teachers across the state have been awarded $2,500 grants for things ranging from technology upgrades to chicken coops and choir trips.

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This year’s Flagstaff recipients are using their grants to fund science education and sensory materials.

Amy Green at Basis Flagstaff plans to use the money for science education. She plans to purchase additional supplies and materials for eighth-grade biology projects.

At Northland Prep Academy, Susan Brown is using the funds to purchase foldscopes for her seventh-grade science students, with hopes to encourage outdoor learning. 

A foldscope is a paper microscope that students can make themselves. It's relatively inexpensive and portable, so students can take them to a variety of locations.

Brown said she had been hoping to purchase foldscopes for her class for a while, as take-home experiments had been a successful teaching tool during remote learning.

“[Buying foldscopes was] something that I wanted to do during the pandemic,” she said. “I thought, 'Wow, that’s perfect. That’s something that would be really fun to do.'”

The students will spend a few class periods following instructions to put the portable microscopes together and then take them outside.

Brown said she was thinking of using them for a student photography contest.

Using the foldscopes should encourage students to “go outdoors, see what you can find and what you can photograph to share with everyone else,” she said. “Being a little creative, a little artistic, a little scientific, just exploring. Having kids go outside and explore I think is so important to learning about the world around us.”

Chloe Pozar, a behavior specialist at DeMiguel Elementary, is using her grant to purchase a number of aids to help students learn more successfully.

Softball Moms

Chloe Pozar, left, speaks with Kendra Lopez about what will be needed for an upcoming softball tournament in this 2018 file photo.

“After returning from COVID, our sensory room was limited... . There was a high need for a lot of little things that would help students be more successful in their classrooms,” she said.

These items include noise-canceling headphones, weighted lap pads and alternative seating options -- needs that can be hard to get funded, according to Pozar.

Sensory rooms are designed to help kids having difficulty in the classroom work through their issues without disrupting the rest of the class.

Items like these will help those students succeed, Pozar said.

“It’s just really great to have funds available for things like this, because it does get put on the wayside with other tangible necessities that teachers need or that schools might need,” she said.

She added: "It helps every student in the classroom when they can all be together and learning. When the flow in the room is really good, that helps everybody out.”

The Force is With Her

Susan Brown, a science teacher at Northland Prep Academy, celebrates Star Wars Day, May 4.

Cathy Graham, chief marketing officer for Desert Financial, said the program was started as a way to give back to the state as teachers are part of Desert Financial's origins and have faced some challenges over the past few years. She said the projects funded by the wish grants would benefit more than just individual classrooms.

“When we give back to teachers, it trickles down to students -- which reaches families, which reaches the community. So I do think it’s one of the best ways to make an impact across the entire state,” she said.

More information about the program, including a full list of grant recipients and application instructions, can be found at wishesforteachers.org.

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