One In A Million: April 2024: Valerie Spadea

Valerie Spadea

Name: Valerie Spadea

School & District: Thew, Tempe School District

Grade(s) you teach: Fourth Grade

How many students in your class(es) this academic year? 24 students

How long have you been a teacher?

32 years, 18 years in Tempe Elementary and 14 years in Maricopa County School DIstrict

What made you get into the teaching profession?

I always wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. I knew what it was like to be the student that teachers didn’t have patience with, so I wanted to be a teacher and be different. I was the first non- english speaking student at my elementary school. My kindergarten teacher was a nightmare! She yelled at me and called me stupid often. Back in the 70’s, they could do what they wanted. I got sent to the principal’s office a lot, just because I didn’t understand, the students got in trouble if they tried to help me.

Who was your most inspirational teacher & why?

Mrs. Ohara was my Hero! She was my first grade teacher! She kept me after school every day to teach me English. She did this until I was in the 3rd grade. By then, I was reading and speaking at grade level. Mrs. Ohara really encouraged me to be the student she knew I could be in Reading and Writing, since Math was always easy for me. Mrs. Ohara remained an important part of my life until she passed away.

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

One of the biggest challenges teachers face in Arizona today is Lack of Motivation and negative behaviors. Schools, parents and teachers need to work together to combat this issues. It makes it difficult for educators to run a classroom when there are disruptions that occur daily, especially with behaviors that are unmanageable. Students are also not motivated to do work and do work on their own. They would much rather socialize and act out then get their assignments completed.

How do these issues affect your day to day?

These issues affect our days significantly because when you have distractions in the classroom, it can be difficult to keep students on task. The distractions interfere with the learning of all the students in the class. It is already difficult to keep them on task due to their lack of motivation and then you add distractions. I spend so much time redirecting behavior.

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

I spend over the tax deductions on other needs and wants for my classroom throughout the year. I do feel supported by our district, school and community partners with the many school supplies they provide for us.

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

I would say the expectations of becoming a teacher are very different from the reality of being in the classroom. The teacher program teaches you how to teach the curriculum but their expectations don’t really include the behaviors and chaos that teacher have to endure while teaching the standards.

Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?

Many teachers burn out because that didn’t have a real expectation of what it is to be a teacher. A teacher’s job is not just in the classroom. Many teachers bring work home. It is important to find a home -work balance. Many new teachers struggle to find that balance and don’t ask for help, so they get very overwhelmed.

Do you typically feel appreciated or recognized as a teacher?

Sadly, most days I don’t feel appreciated or recognized as a teacher. This year has been nice to have the Million Dollar Teacher Program appreciate us with the lunches, raffles and the million dollar teacher of the month. I feel honored to be one of the teachers of the month.

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

Spending time with my sons and family. Having grown up near the beach, the beach always soothes my soul, unfortunately Tempe doesn’t have an ocean, so walking by a lake is good. A night out with my boys or friends also fills my soul.

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

I always appreciate letters or cards. The things your organization are doing is very thoughtful.

What is your wish for Arizona’s children?

My wish is that my students will feel love and confident that they can fulfill any of their dreams.

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

If I had a wishlist I could also use some treasure box items for my students, electric pencil sharpener and 6 whiteboards about 3 ft x 4 ft . I would also love to take our grade level on a field trip to somewhere amazing so they can have experience outside of the classroom!

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

I would love to go to a sporting event with my boys.

What is/are your FAVORITE/PREFERRED…

  • College/University/Alma Mater? San Jose State University
  • Color? Fuschia or black
  • Food/restaurant? Rigatoni’s, Oreganos, Texas Roadhouse, Red Robin
  • Music/group/artist? 80’s, 90’s, early 2000’s
  • Sport/athletics team? 49ers, Suns, Coyotes, Dbacks
  • Snack & Beverage? Starbucks, diet Dr Pepper, Popcorn
  • Pastime/hobby? Photography, cricut, spending time with boys, going to sporting events
  • Do you have children/pets? I have 2 boys (Enrique and Elian),1 dog (Chloe)
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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+