The Fiesta Bowl

The Fiesta Bowl mascot surprises teachers.

Although Thanksgiving is technically celebrated on Nov. 25 this year, 400 Arizona teachers — including more than 60 in the West Valley — feted it early.

During the first days of November, in what has become an annual tradition to honor, support and celebrate Arizona’s teachers, the Fiesta Bowl Organization awarded $1 million to teachers through the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program. 

“They may not wear capes, but teachers are real-life superheroes. They give tirelessly to their students and Wishes for Teachers is our opportunity to reward them for their efforts,” said Jeff Meshey, president and CEO at Desert Financial. 

“Desert Financial was founded by teachers. We continue their legacy by returning as the title partner for this year’s Wishes for Teachers, in partnership with Fiesta Bowl Charities. Teachers often pay for school supplies out of their own pockets, so there’s no greater way to express our gratitude than by granting their classroom wishes.” 

Through a three-day Virtual Draft Day presented by Salt River Project (SRP), 400 teachers from K-12 schools were each given $2,500 to grant a wish in their classrooms. 

The winners were chosen based on a program in the fall wherein any Arizona K-12 teacher filled out an online application detailing a school or classroom need. The wishes were then verified and selected by random drawing for teachers to receive a grant. Over the six years of the program, Fiesta Bowl Wishes for Teachers has granted $4.7 million to more than 1,200 Arizona teachers, impacting more than 500,000 children across the state. 

“I love Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Charities Draft Day presented by SRP, it is so exciting when we call each teacher to let them know their name was selected as a grant recipient,” said Patrick Barkley, chairman of the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors. “Wishes for Teachers is well-known around the state as the preeminent program for teacher support. My mom was a teacher, and we all know teachers who inspire us with their selfless work.”  

This year, the 400 teachers represent 300 schools in 63 cities across the state, educating more than 200,000 students in 84 districts over 75 subjects, from social studies to special education, literature to leadership, music to math. Through the program, here is just a sampling of classroom wishes being granted: 

• Christine Miller, a second-grade teacher at Desert Thunder Elementary School, will provide new seating options for students to promote a better learning environment.

• Merita Jaha, an art teacher at Archway Trivium East, will provide the art classroom with a computer and other materials for the class.

• Philip Jackson, a science teacher at Western Sky Middle School, will purchase Chromebooks for the class. 

• Amy Alek, a math teacher at Western Sky Middle School, will purchase headphones for testing and online assessment for students in the class.

• Wendy Jones, an eighth-grade writing teacher at Western Sky Middle School, will build a classroom library.

• Jennifer Guant, an English language learning teacher at Western Sky Middle School, will purchase supplies to support a resource center for the English language learners.  

• David Wirth, a physics teacher at Millennium High School, will purchase additional technology for the science lab.  

• Britney Joseph, a music teacher at Litchfield Elementary School, is using her wish to purchase instruments for students to use when they are unable to afford their own. 

• Jacqueline Rodriguez a third-grade teacher at Litchfield Elementary School, is using her wish to provide Chromebooks for her class.  

• Jules Nolte, a STEM teacher at Belen Soto Elementary School, is using her wish to purchase equipment and materials for STEM projects.  

• Elizabeth Davis, an eighth-grade teacher at Western Sky Middle School, is using her wish to purchase additional books for the classroom. 

• Stephanie Fritz, a general education teacher at Blue Horizons Elementary School, will purchase Chromebooks for the class. 

• Sarah Mullen, a biology teacher at Odyssey Institute for Advanced and International Studies, will provide breakfast and snacks for students with limited resources at home.  

• Kristen Stewart, a first-grade teacher at Verrado Elementary School, will purchase iPads for the class.  

• Dawn Schummer, a science teacher at Rainbow Elementary School, will purchase equipment and materials for a hydroponic garden.  

• Deborah Bamonte, a reading intervention teacher at Rainbow Valley Elementary School, will purchase Chromebooks for the class. 

• Alexandra Stuart, a band and music teacher at Steven R. Jasinski Elementary School, will purchase additional instruments and equipment for the band. 

• Joann Loudermilk, an English language arts teacher at Steven R. Jasinski Elementary School, will purchase cameras and supplies for the arts class.  

“Teachers are our unsung heroes, who give so much to our students in helping them become tomorrow’s leaders. Giving them a spotlight for their selfless work and support them with extra resources is an important part of the Fiesta Bowl’s commitment to our community,” said Mike Nealy, Fiesta Bowl executive director. “Thanks to our partners Desert Financial and SRP, Wishes for Teachers help rewards Arizona’s teachers and give them a step forward in ways they may have only wished.” 

For more information, or for a full list of granted wishes, visit fiestabowl.org