One In A Million: Maria Madrigal

Name: Maria Madrigal

School: Granada Primary

Grade: 3

Support Needed:  Interns, I need people in my classroom helping differentiate with each student or a group of them. I need supplies to keep my students from having to stress about broken pencils and not being able to sharpen because Ms. Madrigal’s sharpener is broken again and I can’t afford to go buy another one.

How long have you been a teacher? 

Almost 9 years

What made you get into the teaching profession?

I have a drawing from kindergarten that says “Teacher” and I wanted to be a teacher since, that has been my passion.

Who was your most inspirational teacher and why?
Ms. Barragan, she was my kindergarten and my third-grade teacher. I just remember all of the fun activities we did in class, we would perform for our parents and we would do all these cultural activities, it was fun. My parents would always talk to her and my parents loved her.  I emailed her a few years ago and I think of her all the time.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges teachers in Arizona face right now?
First, Respect. There is so much going on in this world that people say we are glorified babysitters, sometimes I wish I was. I would make so much money and I wouldn’t have to do partially anything compared to what I do now.  I wish parents would respect teachers and realize that WE (teachers and parents) need each other to help the child be successful, most parents see it as the teacher’s fault or they just truly don’t care.

 

Second Funds to support us with staff and materials. We can’t support more than 30 students on a daily basis without materials.  There are points in my teaching career in which I would teach 90 students within 2 hours and trust me sharing materials with all of them, was not easy.  Managing over 30 students at a time and expecting me to truly make a difference, it’s a struggle.

 

Third, Salary.  I have known people that leave the profession since they can’t afford to have a family.  It is easier for me not to have children, because of this career I rather not have biological children, I already have over 30 on a daily basis.

How do these issues affect your day to day?
It’s a daily battle and the fact that I have been doing it for so long, it’s become routine. My first few years I wanted to quit so bad, but I had to persevere for my students.  There were days were I would just cry after work, and now I rarely cry. I think,… I know teachers are survivors, we become more wise with experience, more flexible and we just keep on teaching with our struggles, it’s in our hearts to help others.

What does the $250 tax deduction for school supplies for teachers mean to you?
It means I can claim only part of what I buy, but I will take what I can get. Sadly enough, I will do whatever it takes for my students to succeed, there has been years where I don’t buy new clothes for myself or save up for a trip because I spend that money on my students and if not thinking of my current kiddos, I am planning for my future students.  I have bought clothes for my students or snacks for them to take home for the weekend when I know they will probably go hungry.

How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different than the reality?
People have no idea of everything that teachers do, they see it as something so simple as you are told what to teach or everything is already made for us.  This doesn’t compare, it is hard work, each year you are redoing lessons due to standards and objects and pacing guides and classes changing. Managing your class changes every year due to the class as well, differentiation is key and we are constantly making decisions, every second of the day from 7:00-3:00 it’s nonstop making decisions. There are days it’s difficult to shut off your brain.

Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?
People are not told the truth about teaching, you are not told that you won’t have time to plan out lesson plans during the school day, they don’t tell you that you are lucky if you get 20 minutes to eat, they don’t tell you that parents don’t support you nor the child at home, they don’t tell you that most of the time you will be dealing with behavior and there is more likely no support. They don’t tell you that not only will you not have time to create lessons plans, but that you are to find your own sources if your district hasn’t adopted a program to use or that you need to make your copies at one point more than likely before school or after school.  At the end of the day, 3:00, you are drained, you think about what they did academically, what they struggled, if there was a personal thing they told you, if there was a behavior issue, what you have to teach tomorrow, what you got to grade, what you need to copy, who you need to call and who you have to email… There is so much to do, that is why people get burnt out, there is no assistant and the class sizes are over 30 students.

What “fills your cup” when you’re running on empty?
The kids smile, our laughing moments, that student sharing their answer because they got it right and they never get it right. Sometimes I think of Ms. Barragan or my parents or that moment when I graduated and knew I had accomplished so much. I think of my troubled student being good now.

What are some of the most thoughtful and effective ways parents and the community can show gratitude?
I want parents to truly… just give time to your child, have them read to you, help them in their homework. Another way is to come to parent classes; our district and school provides that happen to be FREE.  If teachers have a communication tool, sign up so you know the latest updates. If a teacher calls, then call them back. I just want you to help me help your child.

 

Another way is to donate the most commonly supplies that run out:  pencils, erasers, tissues, expo-markers, sharpeners, and hand-sanitizers. Also reading chapter books or stickers or even prizes from the dollar store for the treasure box to use as incentives. It is important to celebrate student achievements.

 

Also just a thank you from a parent goes along way, I don’t need gifts or gift cards even though the surprise is a wonderful gesture.  I just want to feel appreciated especially when it feels like the government, the people, the parents won’t support you teaching the future of this country.
What is your wish for Arizona’s children?

I just want students to want to learn, to read on their own, to find that passion of what they like and what they want to be when they grow up.  I want students to have a safe environment in which they don’t have to worry about food or being bullied or not having materials, they should have the same equal education as the richest students in the world. Where students live should not impact their success level in life.

Who do people contact if they want to offer you additional support or where do people send supplies if they want to make a donation to your class?

Maria Madrigal

3232 West Campbell Avenue

Phoenix, AZ 85017

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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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One In A Million: Amy Ball

How long have you been a teacher?
I moved to Arizona just a few days after graduating from the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University, and immediately began my education career. I’m currently in my 12th year in the profession, the entirety of which has been spent teaching in a kindergarten classroom.

 

What made you get into the teaching profession?
When I was in high school, I aspired to study theatre in college and become an actress. Plans changed drastically, however, during my senior year of high school, at which time I joined my school’s cadet program, working daily in the very same kindergarten classroom I learned and played in 12 years prior. I was blessed to work alongside Sheryl Blanchard, my own beloved kindergarten teacher, and watch the magic of inspired teaching and learning unfold before my eyes, and I quickly fell in love with that age group.

 

Who was your most inspirational teacher and why?
My high school band director, Frank Youngman, had the greatest impact on me growing up. He saw the best in me, saw my potential, and treated me with an incredible amount of respect. He gave me responsibility in his class, shaping me into a young leader and teaching me skills I have used ever since. His relationship with his students after they’ve left his class is something I strive to obtain – he is a good friend to so many, stays connected in their lives, and loves them wholeheartedly. I consider it a gift whenever I get to see him. If I have that same friendship with any of my students when they’re adults, I will consider myself incredibly lucky.

 

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges teachers in Arizona face right now?
Each year, teachers are required to do more with less and make it look like nothing’s wrong. I learned this firsthand my second year of teaching, when the district I was working in at the time was taken into receivership by the State. An attorney stood before us and said, in a nutshell, “Forget about having pencils, crayons, and paper provided in your classrooms.” Having no money for supplies, and working in an area with very low-income families was an incredible challenge, but my colleagues and I made it work. Not only that, we made it seem as if nothing was different to our students, but the stress was unreal. That same pressure to effectively teach while resources and support decline and expectations and limitations increase, is a huge part of why I believe teachers are leaving today.

I use my voice at Governing Board meetings and when working with district leaders because I know that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. Montserrat Gomendio, deputy director of the Directorate for Education and Skills at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development agrees that, “ensuring high quality teachers, who are satisfied with their jobs, and work in stimulating and supportive environments, must be a priority of all education systems.”

 

How do these issues affect your day to day?
I’m dedicated to helping improve the working conditions for teachers and the learning conditions for students because I believe in public education, so I spend a lot of my time working with district leaders, which keeps me in meetings after school several days a week. I am proud to advocate for my profession, but that requires a time commitment. Moreover, because Arizona teachers are the lowest paid in our country,  I am dependent on the money I make tutoring students in my second job to make ends meet, and that combined with the extra responsibilities I take on with the teachers’ association gets me home during the week between 6:30 – 8pm. I love my job and am proud to be in the teaching profession, but it is an exhausting labor of love.

 

What does the $250 tax deduction for school supplies for teachers mean to you?
Arizona’s government made huge cuts to public education funding 10-years ago and we are currently working at $1.1 billion below 2008 levels.  Arizona currently ranks 51st in teacher salaries across the United States. The reason teachers buy school supplies even though they’re the lowest paid in the nation is because they care about their kids. Teachers should not have to buy their own classroom supplies when they’re at the bottom of the ranking in terms of pay. Arizona’s students deserve to have a full-time, certified teacher in the classroom, and those teachers deserve fair pay. There’s a teacher shortage crisis in Arizona, and we are waiting to hear what the plan from our governor is to fix this.

 

How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different than the reality?
A college or university simply cannot prepare you for all of the extra things that are expected of a teacher.
In addition to being an educator, teachers are also:
Tech experts, spare-pen providers, cheerleaders, parental reminders, travel planners, bankers, budget-cut supply providers, disciplinarians, drill sergeants, entertainers, room custodians, activists, advice givers, abuse detectives, secretaries, dieticians, part-time parents, nose wipers, mentors, referees, confidantes, social workers, nurses, therapists, tutors, psychologists, and drug detectors.  
The list goes on and on.

 

Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?
Teaching is hard, physically and mentally demanding, and it is difficult to find a work-life balance. Speaking as an early childhood educator, I can honestly say that there is not one moment that my students are in my classroom during which I’m not making a hundred decisions all at one time.  It hurts my head trying to even sort out everything I do simultaneously, but here’s an example:
As I’m reading a story to the class, I am not only reading the words aloud and showing the illustrations, I’m also keeping my eye on all 26 of my 5 & 6-year old students to make sure they’re engaged. There could be a child who looks sleepy because they stayed up too late with visiting relatives the night before, a student who looks sad because they split their time between their mom and dad and haven’t seen one of their parents for almost a week. There are students who are “frienemies” and I have to keep them separated yet they are drawn to each other like magnets. I have to make sure I’m engaging all of these children and giving them what they need, all while reading the book to a whole group. I have to think about their attention spans, plan the next activity in my head when this one isn’t even finished, keep my eye on the clock to ensure we’re on schedule, and make sure everyone is staying in their own space, attentive, and engaged. I have to ask questions that relate to the text and draw on prior knowledge, and tie this picture book to some aspect of our math/science/social studies curriculum. At the same time, I need to get up, while still reading so I don’t lose attention of the other 25 kids in my class, and clean and bandage a wound, tie a shoelace, comfort a crying student, and mentally draft email responses to the parents who have contacted me regarding their individual students. I’m missing a ton of things that literally happen during a single instance like this, but the point is clear: there’s not even one moment of downtime in a classroom.
So, take that information, and then also consider that expectations increase while support and resources decrease. Throw in the fact that teachers are not appropriately compensated for the work they do and the degrees they have earned, and then place everything in the setting of a state that ranks 51st in the nation for teacher salaries, requiring teachers to have 2nd and 3rd jobs – not to buy boats, but to pay their bills and support their families.
Great leaders can do amazing things on behalf of students, even against the greatest of odds. Arizona teachers dedicate their lives to achieving the dream of providing a level playing field for each and every child in our class.  It’s what gets us out of bed every morning, drives us through each day, and what keeps us awake at night.

 

What “fills your cup” when you’re running on empty?
The same expectation I have of my students, to be their best every day, I have for myself. I expect myself to be better and do better each day. But there are times when all the expectations and responsibilities build up and it feels overwhelming. Just last week, I was feeling super stressed, worried, and overwhelmed. As I was supervising my students at recess, I found myself fighting back tears because I was truly running on empty. At just that moment, one of my little girls came running up to me and said, “Miss Ball, do you want to watch me spin?” and she joined a friend as they galloped and spinned and frolicked and look absolutely like carefree little bundles of vulnerable and innocent love. And it was just the thing I needed, being reminded of how important my job is, and what am impact I make on so many tiny human beings each day. Students deserve an excited adult who is looking for those magic moments. That fills my cup.

 

What are some of the most thoughtful and effective ways parents and the community can show gratitude?
Voting for legislators and state leaders who truly value public education by increasing funding for Arizona students.  It is essential to recognize the critically hard, important work educators across our State are doing daily to support and raise expectations for our children, and lift up the teaching profession by recognizing that teachers need better preparation, better support, and more resources to do their exceedingly important job. In 1848, Horace Mann, pioneering American educator, stated that “education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men — the balance wheel of the social machinery.” This still rings true today, and I believe that when we empower teachers and give them freedom and flexibility to drive real change in all students’ lives, our schools can then fulfill their fundamental destiny to be gateways to opportunity.


What is your wish for Arizona’s children?
More than 50 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson called on Congress to establish “full educational opportunity as our first national goal.” Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 because he believed that we “could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.” I share Johnson’s thoughts and fervently believe that every student, in every district, and in every state, has the right to an excellent education. Every single child is important.  
Every child in AZ deserves the attention and focus of a full-time, certified teacher who recognizes their unique strengths and challenges, in order to reach their full potential. My focus is on a student growing, rather than all children reaching a set benchmark, and by doing that I am honoring and respecting that student as a capable, independent, and important being. I set my sights on fostering a community in which the students are proud of helping their classmates. This influences their behavior in and out of the classroom because they have the love and support from one another that is needed in order to feel safe to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy,” as my teacher idol, Miss Frizzle from The Magic Schoolbus likes to say. I love to see my students embrace the different abilities of their classmates, understanding that differences are not only okay but important, and that is why I strive to build a safe harbor where my students want all to succeed. My goal is for my students to embrace the attitude that their neighbor’s growth is just as important as their own.  

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About Us

Million Dollar Teacher Project was established October 2016 as a mechanism to strengthen schools in Arizona.  The work of the organization revolves around the principle that the most cost-effective and sustainable way to improve schools is to direct more resources and support directly to the teaching profession so schools have the ability to attract great talent in to every classroom.  The mission of MDTP is to elevate the teaching profession through increased recognition, compensation and support.  Our vision is to create a word where every student is taught by a highly trained, qualified, understanding and engaged teacher.

Recognition, Compensation and Support are the three pillars that we develop community-centered, grassroots approaches around to push the needle forward in the teaching profession, schools and the education system.

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Donations

Take a Teacher to Lunch

One of the easiest way to show someone you appreciate them is to feed them! We have already begun partnering with schools and taking their teachers to lunch, but we need support in turning this into a statewide campaign. Our goal is to take teachers to lunch in every school district in Arizona. If you own a restaurant, like to cook or want to  donate towards the cause this is your chance. Help us take teachers to lunch!

Click the Link To Support the Campaign:

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Support MDTP

Are you a fan of MDTP who wants to support our administrative/program costs?   Please select the option below to support the cause and help us continue and expand our work.

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Endowment

The key to any innovation and to successful change in a system is sustainability.  As MDTP  grows we want our capacity to help schools pay teachers more money to grow with us.  The In Teachers We Trust Endowment Fund is our mechanism to support innovative strategies to increase teacher compensation long-term.  Our ambitious goal with this fund is to create an education endowment in all 50 states in the U.S.

Plan Your Gift by Clicking this Link:

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