One In A Million: Quarter 3 – 2023: Laura Edwards


Name: Laura Edwards

School & District: Estrella Foothills High School; Buckeye Union High School District

Grade(s) you teach: 9-12 (CTE Education Professions) & our school Instructional Specialist

How many students in your class(es) this academic year? Semester 1: 36, Semester 2: 27

How long have you been a teacher? 17 years

What made you get into the teaching profession?

I found my calling to the teaching profession because of my deep passion for helping others. During high school,I had the opportunity to help my best friend succeed in Calculus. Witnessing her success helped me realize how much I wanted to do that every day in my future career. The connection formed through teaching and the impact it has on someone’s life motivated me to become an incredibly passionate educator.

Who was your most inspirational teacher & why?

The teacher who has had the most profound impact on me was my ASL (American Sign Language) teacher during high school. What made her truly inspirational was her ability to make learning enjoyable. Every class with her was filled with positivity, making what we were learning exciting. Beyond her teaching, she created a classroom environment that was a safe haven – a place where students felt heard, valued, and cared for. What set her apart was her genuine commitment to her students’ well-being. She attended some of my softball games, which showed how much she truly supported me alongside her other students. Her impact on me continues to shape the educator I am each and every day.

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

One of the most pressing challenges for teachers in Arizona currently revolves around school funding. This directly affects our students in our classrooms, where class sizes exceed the intended capacity. The classrooms we teach in are not designed for class sizes of 40 students or more, which is what many of us are facing.

How do these issues affect your day-to-day?

These issues have a direct impact on my day-to-day experiences as a teacher. The larger class sizes resulting from insufficient school funding means more challenges for teachers to individualize instruction for students, making it difficult to meet their unique learning needs.

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

If I had a year where I spent less than $250 I would be impressed (so would my husband, haha!). Many teachers spend $250 or more on school supplies every year. I take pride in making my lessons engaging and meaningful for my students, which means I am running to the store to purchase things that I need to make my lessons go the way I want them to. As much as I appreciate it and as much as it helps other teachers, it doesn’t cover what many of us spend annually for our students.

How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different from reality?

So much of our society does not realize all that is put on teachers. In my 17 years of teaching, I continually tell myself that I am not going to bring my work home. That is a nearly impossible task if you strive to be an effective teacher. I am fortunate enough to teach our Education Professions classes to students who wish to pursue teaching as a career. I get to share my passion for teaching with my students, but I am also very real with them. There are many expectations for teachers that happen outside of your contract hours.

Why do you think, teachers burn out so quickly?

I wish I could say that I have never felt burnt out during my teaching career. I’ve had some years where I thought I wasn’t going to survive the year due to all that is placed upon us as teachers. I want to do everything I can to support my students’ education, however, the long list of things we do outside of teaching is sometimes overwhelming.

Do you typically feel appreciated or recognized as a teacher?

My students and fellow teachers make me feel appreciated and recognized as a teacher. Receiving this award because my students thought to nominate me means the world to me. I appreciate each and every one of them.

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

What “fills my cup” when I’m running on empty is the gratitude and appreciation I receive from my students and their parents.

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

I believe the most effective and thoughtful ways that parents and our community can show gratitude is simply to value and support our schools, teachers, and most importantly, our students. I am fortunate to live in the same community in which I teach, and I absolutely LOVE to run into parents at the store and at community events. Experiencing those random bouts of appreciation helps our school thrive within our community.

What is your wish for Arizona’s children?

My wish for Arizona’s children is that each child be taught by teachers who love what they do, are passionate, and see each child for who they truly are. Every child deserves an education that is filled with support and guidance so they can reach their full potential. We need to ensure that our children have all that they need to be successful, regardless of their academic abilities or experiences.

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

Teaching future teachers of all grade levels means making sure that I have as many supplies as possible for my students to create lessons to teach in their field experience classes. We use a lot of posterboard, chart paper, markers, glue sticks, and manipulatives. Along with other typical supplies, having picture books that involve diversity to use in the classroom would also be a valuable addition. If someone wants to help out, they should contact my Principal, Kimberly Heinz.

What types of items/prizes are meaningful to you to win/be gifted?

This is a very tough question to answer. I love spending time with my family. If I were to say what would be meaningful to me to be gifted, anything that I can do with my family would be well appreciated. I am also an avid reader, I love books. Books make me happy.

 What is/are your FAVORITE…

– Color? Purple

– Food/restaurant?Local coffee shops (Enroute coffee, New Penny café), sushi restaurants (Akai Hana)

– Music/group/artist? Alternative/Indy bands

– Sport/athletics team? Atlanta Braves, softball

– Pastime/hobby? Reading, jigsaw puzzles, jet skiing with my family

You will be able to see and support this teacher as a part of our Feel Like a Million Dollars competition this year.  The winner of the competition will be announced at our annual fundraiser, which takes place in July!


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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+