A Queen Creek charter high school boasts three teachers who won special “wish-list” grants totaling $15,000.
The teachers from American Leadership Academy Queen Creek High School each won $2,500 from the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers Program.
In addition to getting their “wish” grant, the three teachers saw their prizes double in a dollar-per-dollar match on Giving Tuesday through Donors Choose, the donation platform used by Fiesta Bowl Charities.
Sue Brewer, Trae Dunman and Heidi Mixon applied to the Wishes for Teachers Program that awards grants to teachers for classrooms across Arizona.
“I was pretty excited. They happened to catch me right between class periods to tell me I had won, so I didn't have any students in at the moment,” Ms. Brewer said. “So, I was super excited to tell my students as they came in that next hour that we had been awarded that money and we were going to be able to get some great stuff for our classroom and they were like, ‘Cool!’”
Among the items the art teacher purchased were two pottery wheels for her ceramics classes.
“The kids were already very excited about the fact that we are doing ceramics this year, and they will have the opportunity to work with clay and fire their things and make things that are functional,” Ms. Brewer said. “And so that was in place this year and they were very excited about that. And then the idea of doing the pottery wheel was added, and I have a lot of kids that are very excited to try that and learn that.”
Most of her other purchases also focused on ceramics supplies and equipment
“There was not really anything here when I came and so I was able to also get a large storage cart that will be very helpful for having places to keep all the three-dimensional work as it's being worked on, and then various other tools like banding wheels, which are for sculpting, and hand tools — different things like that,” Ms. Brewer said.
Mr. Dunman is a math teacher at ALA Queen Creek High School. He used his money to buy graphing calculators for his students.
Ms. Mixon is a photography teacher and used her grant to purchase photography lights, triggers and modifiers, a photo printer, a beginner drone and photography hardback books.
“For my classroom, photography is about more than just the images we capture,” Ms. Mixon said. “It's about developing the whole student through the camera lens. The students learn about self-esteem and worth through weekly assignments and collaborative sessions that teach them how to find the unique qualities and beauty in every image they capture.”
The Wishes for Teachers program has granted more than $3.2 million to Arizona teachers since 2016, impacting more than 300,000 students at 400 schools across the state. Five teachers at ALA Queen Creek High School have received a Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers grant since the program’s inception.
American Leadership Academy is a K-12th grade tuition-free public charter school that serves more 11,000 students across 12 schools in the East Valley.
In an era dominated by STEM education, the fact that arts programs received the grants is heartening to Ms. Brewer.
“You know, we get a little bit forgotten about sometimes in the funding area and we're kind of on our own as far as figuring out how to get all the things that we need or things that we want to get to enrich our classrooms,” she said,
Ms. Brewer does point out that math is used in her class.
“We're using math all the time in art and design, and you're constantly evaluating the mathematical proportions of things such as ratios and how that relates to visual imagery,” she said. “It is a connection that the students often don't really think about until you lay it out there.”
For Ms. Brewer, the grant and the matching donations have sped up plans for her classroom.
“A lot of things I had hoped to gradually get one or two here or there each year and kind of build up what we had in our classroom,” she said. “And then I was able to just purchase a lot of it right now, so then we'll have it and we'll be set, so it's awesome.”
Students already are working on the pottery wheels and they couldn’t be more thrilled, Ms. Brewer said.
“We got the pottery wheels over the holiday break and so I was able to unpackage them and I had students on them this past week,” she said.
Although she applied for the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers Program without much expectation, now Ms. Brewer is inspired to go on the hunt for more grant money
“I'm hoping to see if there are any other types of opportunities that I might have to do that, as well as looking around in the community,” she said. “My goal is really to build up my programs here so that we are known in our community and our families will want their kids to take art and want to be a part of this program.”