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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Growing the Tree

Million Dollar Teacher Tree was first developed in a classroom by students in a program called, Next Generation Service Corps at Arizona State University in December of 2017. These students were tasked by Lloyd Hopkins, founder of Million Dollar Teacher project with developing a project that can potentially become an integral part in helping MDTP achieve its mission. The group eventually developed the original prototype for Million Dollar Teacher Tree—a cutout dollar sign that would be placed in surrounding businesses near the partner school. The idea was pitched to staff members of MDTP during the last of their class, and the project was picked up by MDTP as a new pilot program for the organization. After many months of planning, the prototype was eventually revamped into what it is today, Million Dollar Teacher Tree.

Golden Apple

These apples are intended to provide any sort of Professional Development which, in turn, gifts them with key knowledge to add to their personal skill-set to better work with their students.

As educators, teachers are constantly looking to continually grow in their profession to not only learn how to better connect with their students, but to also make the learning experience much more exciting.

Suggested donation amount range: $10 – $100

Red Apple

These apples are designed to provide the typical day-to-day items in the classroom. Teachers spend can spend upwards of $1,000 out of pocket to have enough supplies yearlong for their students– to alleviate this, the Red Apples were created.

Everyday school supplies include; pencils, notebooks, crayons, hand sanitizer, etc.

Green Apple

These apples are intended to provide a big-ticket item for the teachers. These supplies are typically something that the teachers can use for more than one school year.

Examples include; a class-set of computers or new furniture for the classroom.

Suggested donation amount: $500+