One In A Million: Edee Sands


Name: Edee Sands

School: R.E. Simpson School

Grade: 6-8 ART/ EL

How does it feel to be recognized as a One in a Million Teacher ?

I feel validated, flattered and humbled.  This is the nicest compliment I could ever receive! I am grateful to be recognized by MDTP and all you do for teachers.  I am excited to recognized as a One in a Million!

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

I used the Prisma Pencil Sharpeners!  Students in my art room are using colored pencils and now they have quality sharpeners to use with them.  They are sorely needed as the pencil sharpeners we used last year kept breaking. When given a choice, I would always choose quality over quantity for my students.

How long have you been a teacher?

I have been teaching art in public schools for 18 years!  It’s the best job I ever had and I love what I do.
What made you get into the teaching profession?

 My undergraduate degree is in Art Administration.  I have worked in private and non-profit galleries as well as the Phoenix Arts Commission and volunteered at Free Arts of AZ, before starting my family.  I opened an art studio for kids over 20 years ago.  Through these experiences I found my love for teaching art. My daughters’ assistant principal encouraged me to get my teaching certificate to teach in the district. When I first taught art as a substitute teacher I thought it would be wonderful to have my own art classroom and start a new career.    That is how I launched my teaching career.

Who was your most inspirational teacher and why?

 I reflect back on all my art teachers as I always loved my art classes and learned something new from each teacher.  I enjoyed my art history classes in college as well.  When I was in middle school my art class was huge, so two art teachers pulled about 12 students out of the class to be in an advanced class.  We all became like a family.  I still keep in touch with my classmates from that class.  Our teacher was amazing.  She didn’t have her own children, we were her children.  Sadly,  I learned later, she had died, having committed suicide.   She was beautiful, loving and caring.  I still think about her.  She made a difference in all of our lives. I want to make a difference in in the lives of my students as she did for me and my classmates.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges teachers in Arizona face right now?

 Right now it is the INVESTinED.  As of today, 52 candidates have signed a pledge to restore critical funding for education so that Arizona schools can attract teachers and give students a quality education that they deserve.  I really don’t think all teachers will see a true 20% increase in their salaries by 2020.  Right now it is year by year.  It depends on how much the public values and supports the public education system in our state.

Also, right now some of our students are coming from unstable and stressful home environments.   I see this in their behavior towards their classmates in the classroom and on the playground as well as towards teachers and other school staff members.

How do these issues affect your day to day?

 Budget cuts impacts my selection of art supplies. As an art teacher, I need a wide variety of items for the different art lessons and projects planned each school year.  I take advantage of free resources such as The Art Resource Center in Tempe for teachers.  It takes away from my time off, but it is worth having extra supplies for my students.  I see this daily, because my students often do not have the supplies and resources needed to be successful at school. I use what I have in the classroom and find opportunities to access free or low cost supplies.  Last year, I helped a student to enter a state-wide art competition and they won first place! As his teacher, I received $300 in art supplies which made it possible for me to have a stock of paint, markers, brushes and twistable crayons to start off the year.

As far as the instability and stress often experienced by many of our students – I strive to create a safe and welcoming environment that will keep them engaged while in school.  Also, through many of the art projects they do, I am able to incorporate opportunities for them to practice social and emotional behavior skills needed to get along with others, resolve conflicts and build self-confidence. By studying artists and their artwork, along with art from different cultures, I am able to promote and support their social and emotional learning.  I also offer after school activities which is a great release for many students.  Many students look forward to returning to school after long weekends and breaks during the school year.  We provide breakfast in the classroom and many free lunches for our students.

 What does the $250 tax deduction for school supplies for teachers mean to you?

 It does provide some relief, but doesn’t come close to what I typically invest to support my students.  When there is a project that I want to do with my students and additional supplies are needed to make it happen, I will buy whatever is needed beyond my budgeted supplies.
How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different than the reality?

Teaching requires many more hours beyond the time teachers spend with students. A teacher’s day includes many more hours than anyone realizes before and after students are in the classroom.  This time is used to prepare lessons, organize projects, coordinate with other teachers and school staff, record grades and document student progress, communicate with parents, along with other activities necessary to ensure compliance with district and state requirements including requirements for teachers’ ongoing professional development.

Every day I do more than just teach and come home exhausted from teaching, mothering, social working, problem solving, breaking up fights, intervening to interrupt fights that are about to happen, and resolving multiple major and minor conflicts among students.

Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?

It’s a lot to juggle.  Many teachers put in so much effort and energy with often times very little recognition or validation that they make a difference.  Everyone’s story is different.  My kids are grown, college graduates and living on their own. It helps that I don’t have a lot of other distractions at home.  If a young teacher has young kids at home, it’s a second job at night.  I had that at the beginning of my teaching career.  It is actually easier for me now at this stage of life.
What “fills your cup” when you’re running on empty?

When I run on empty, I take a deep breath, reflect on what has happened over the year. When I think about my student’s success, it brings happiness to me.   I try to think of the positive impact I have had on my school community, district and colleagues.  I try not to sweat the small stuff and keep moving forward.  Taking a break from the classroom environment rejuvenate me and give me a second wind of energy.  I will go visit my principal or one of the office staff members to talk about something not related to school.    I love to travel, try new restaurants and cuisines, cook and spend time with family and friends.
What are some of the most thoughtful and effective ways parents and the community can show gratitude?

Parents can send a note to your child’s teacher to express appreciation and perhaps share something they noticed that made a difference for their child.   Stop by and say hello to your child’s teachers.  The community can help out with donations to schools.  I know that Walmart has helped donate to our school district.  Discount Tire offers free admission to families on the first weekend of the month for museum entrance.  Your organization is wonderful.   How amazing to be recognized by the community with the Million Dollar Tree Project, lunch with the teachers and all the extras you do for us!! What can I do for you?  Please let me know!

What is your wish for Arizona’s children?

 My wish for Arizona’s children is that every child graduate high school and receive a diploma.  Let’s try to have every student go on to further their education at a university or vocational program and to be able to support themselves and be able to raise a healthy family, fully participate in their community, and contribute to society.   In our district, we strive to educate the “whole child.”  If each student is developed in all phases of academics, athletics, arts, activities then we made a difference to create our future citizens.

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

My biggest project this year, is to get a kiln installed in my art room.  I inherited an old kiln that will need kiln furniture (kiln stand, shelves, posts, stilts, cones, clay and glazes).  Once it is up and running, I will participate in the annual Empty Bowls program with my school and district which will benefit a food bank in our area.

If anyone is willing to help out they can call my school at 602.246.0699 or Marjon Ceramics at 602.272.6585 and let them know they are helping out by purchasing supplies for R.E. Simpson School, 5330 N. 23rd Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85015 for Edee Sands, Room 44.

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4 Ways you can Support Million Dollar Teacher Project on #GivingTuesday today!


Dear Million Dollar Teacher Project Supporters,

With the holidays upon us we find ourselves feeling immensely fortunate to have amazing supporters helping us spread the word on the work we are doing to strengthen schools!  I would like to personally invite YOU to contribute to our cause in one of four ways today,  #GivingTuesday. 🙂 Today is a day that is known for giving! I want you to have the chance to share our mission with your network to help us grow our impact to include even more teachers. Your support enabled us to reach over 27,000 students with our work with teachers and we are on pace to do even more this year!   It’s amazing to hear the stories from the teachers we work with on how our involvement has helped bring more joy into the profession. I hope that you will consider joining us on #GivingTuesday to share our work and impact with your family, friends and colleagues. We have three easy ways for you to assist us today and you can pick whichever is easiest for you…….or do all four!.

1. CLICK HERE to create your Facebook Fundraiser and let your family and friends know that Facebook and Paypal will begin matching donations at 5am PST (8am EST) on Giving Tuesday!

2. Benevity is donating $10 to MDTP for every Retweet of their #BeTheGood Video that mentions @mdtproject.  You can participate by clicking here.

3. Nominate Million Dollar Teacher Project for Renewal Awards by clicking here.  Information for nomination: Founder Email : l website: | 2942 N 24th Street, Suite 211, Phoenix, Arizona 85016 (zip code for organization)

4. Donate to our founders Facebook #GivingTuesday Fundraiser by clicking here.

 Thank you so much for believing in us and knowing that a strong teaching profession equals strong schools! Your support will help us further our mission and continue to grow our impact in 2019!

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MDTP awarded Cox Charities Grant!

Cox Charities Grants $543K to Arizona Nonprofits Focused on Youth

Cox Charities has granted $543,250 in funding to 80 Arizona nonprofits, such as Center for the Future of Arizona and Million Dollar Teacher Project, with the majority of the funding coming from Cox Communication’s 3,200 Arizona employees.

“Cox is committed to making a difference in Arizona by giving back to the communities we serve,” said John Wolfe, senior vice president and southwest region manager for Cox Communications. “We are proud to make this donation to local nonprofits whose missions are to support and educate youth.”

Center for the Future of Arizona will use the grant funding to expand the organization’s Participatory Budgeting in Schools work, which invites high school students to learn democracy by developing ideas and voting on specific projects that will build stronger school communities.

“It’s not only an investment in the school, but an investment in our students’ critical thinking, communication, problem solving abilities and their buy-in and ownership of the school,” said a Phoenix Union High School District Principal.

The Million Dollar Teacher Project funding will aid in the organization’s work in the Alhambra Elementary School District through its Classroom Support Team model which puts together a team to help the teacher in creating more opportunities for diversified and differentiated instruction in the classroom.

Since the program began in 1996, Cox Charities has awarded more than $7 million Arizona nonprofits that focus on youth and education.

Posted By  to on October 2, 2018 (

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