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One In A Million: Holly Purtell

Name: Holly Purtell

School: Maryvale High School

Grade: Senior English

We received over 900 votes in our first ever Feel Like a Million Dollars event that we hosted on May 22nd for Maryvale High School.   Both the faculty and the students voted on who they felt deserved to feel like a million dollars and you won!  How does that feel?

Receiving the One in a Million Teacher Recognition is surreal. I am still in disbelief. I feel honored and yet at the same time, I feel unworthy because I work with so many amazing educators at Maryvale High School. 

What was the first prize you used out of the prize package you received?

I haven’t used any of the prizes from my prize package. Right now, it’s acting as a beautiful centerpiece on my dining room table. I am looking forward to using the Diamondbacks baseball tickets and the Botanical Garden Membership.

How long have you been a teacher?
I have been teaching for 23 years.

What made you get into the teaching profession?
I live to teach. I love to help students. On the weekends and summers, I’m bored and have to put myself to work. I donate a lot of my free time. I was born to teach.

Who was your most inspirational teacher and why?
My most inspirational high school teacher was my Sociology teacher, Mr. Baily. He taught us to think critically. We would have discussions the entire class period. He was amazing.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges teachers in Arizona face right now?
Arizona teachers are facing a combination of challenges. One, college tuition as increased dramatically, and two, teacher salaries have not. I wish someone would focus on making college more affordable if not free for teachers. In general, I wish there could be more programs for Arizona’s teachers like affordable housing, education, etc.

How do these issues affect your day to day?
Living from paycheck to paycheck takes a psychological toll. This also causes many of my colleagues to leave the profession or to seek better teaching positions out of the country.  It is sad to see so many of my friends leave one way or the other.

What does the $250 tax deduction for school supplies for teachers mean to you?
I utilize my $250 tax credit to purchase materials for my “Book Boutique.” That is my in-class library, work space, and chill area for students.

How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different than the reality?
Teaching theory vs. teaching in practice are two different worlds. Oftentimes, you cannot predict what concepts students will find challenging. Just because a concept makes sense to me does not mean students will find it equally accessible. Teachers have to modify and adjust as we teach and analyze student work for evidence of understanding. Re-teaching is as important as teaching.

Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?
Teachers are usually nice people, who don’t like to disappoint people. Usually they need to learn to say “no” more and to recognize when they are over-committed. Others burn out because the realize they cannot support their family on a teacher’s salary.

What “fills your cup” when you’re running on empty?

I love collaborating with other educators. Telling stories and laughing ourselves silly re-energizes me.

What are some of the most thoughtful and effective ways parents and the community can show gratitude?

When parents support what’s best for their students, then they are supporting me. Parents and I are on the same side. We both want what’s best for their kids. So, help to get them to school on time, check their grades through parent portal, ensure students have access to online tools.
What is your wish for Arizona’s children?

I wish for Arizona students to be competitive in the U.S. and even the world job market.

 What additional support  or supplies do you need in your classroom and who do people contact if they want to help out?

What Arizona students need to be most competitive is access to the internet, online tools, and learning materials. Some students are experts with accessing and learning from places like Khan Academy online tutorials. Some students have never heard of it before and do not have any online access. Arizona is rich in culture and viewpoints. It would be a shame if we could not share our unique excellence because socioeconomic challenges inhibit our progress.

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