The Wishes for Teachers program was started last year by Fiesta Bowl Charities and grants teachers in Arizona $5,000 each, no strings attached. Teachers fill out an application detailing their wish and winners are selected by random drawing. Last year, 100 teachers received a grant.

This year, Fiesta Bowl Charities and The Arizona Republic want to grant even more teachers their wish. You can help. To donate, fill out the online form by Nov. 3. Teachers can apply at through Nov. 3. 

Before applying for a grant through the Wishes for Teachers program, Tracey Antista did her research to decide what made the most sense to spend the money on.

“My wish was to have flexible seating for my special education students,” she said. “It’s been shown that there’s a 15 to 25 percent increase in engagement when they have the right kind of seat.”

Increase in student motivation and focus

Antista, who teaches at J. Robert Hendricks Elementary School, filled out her application with a detailed description of the furniture she would get with the $5,000 grant. When she received the money, that’s exactly what she bought.

She purchased various types of furniture for her classroom, including wobble seats and seats that can rotate in a complete circle, as well as stand-up desks and tables that fit like pie pieces. Students are able to work wherever they’d like.

Antista said the furniture arrived over the summer, so it was a big surprise to the students this year. While it took a while to adjust to the new set-up, the students now really enjoy it. 

“I’ve already seen an increase in motivation, the talking and the wiggles have decreased and they (the students) can really focus on the work,” she said.

Caitlin Wiggin-Carlton teaches her special education students at the American Leadership Academy in Mesa, Thursday, September 21, 2017. (Photo: Tom Tingle/The Republic)

Students get needed full-on attention

Caitlin Wiggin-Carlton heard the news that she had been awarded a $5,000 grant through the Wishes for Teachers program and was “shocked.”

“It’s one of those things you don’t think you’re really going to get,” she said.

With small groups or one-on-one sessions in her special education classroom, Wiggin-Carlton said she decided to purchase items that would help students get the full-on attention they needed. She was able to purchase Chromebooks, Amazon Kindle Fires, horseshoe tables and various other classroom decorations.  

Grants help renew crucial learning programs

Holly Shupe also used her grant to help her special education classroom at Burk Elementary School. Her classroom is self-contained and like Wiggin-Carlton, has activities that are normally one-on-one or in very small groups. Oftentimes, there are more students than teachers available, so the classroom is split into stations that focus on various topics. One of those is Reflex Math, a computer program that allows students to practice and review skills themselves. 

“This is a really important part of the classroom,” she said. “It’s one of the stations, one of the things we do. It’s like having an extra body in the classroom and it really improves their math skills.”

When Shupe learned last year that there would be no funding to continue purchasing the program, she wasn’t sure what to do until another teacher suggested applying for the Wishes for Teachers program grant. Shupe said she didn’t know how much the grant was for, but applied and explained how important the money would be for, not only her classroom, but all of Berk Elementary.

She was able to purchase the program for two more years with the money she received from the grant and that “it’s been really appreciated in the school.”

“My first thing (I thought) was ‘I’ve never won anything before!'” she said. “Then I told everybody else that you need to put in for this (the grant) next year.”

Involving the students

Kelley Thomas teaches a self-contained special education class with 12 students at Coronado K-12 School. When she filled out the grant application, her students were right there with her. 

“We all got together and the application was up on the big screen,” she said. “I had them tell me what they wanted, so that was a colored printer, stand up desks with office chairs and bean bags. We were also able to get three laptops for the classroom.”

Thomas’ students were also with her when she found out she had been selected to receive the grant. Now, when other teachers or students ask about the new furniture, the kids are excited to shout their catchphrase “we got a classroom makeover.”

Thomas said receiving the grant was “overwhelming,” and it was followed with “a thousand thanks.”

“Teachers in Arizona, we don’t have all the perks that other states do,” she said. “This is a really big thank you. It’s really acknowledging the teachers and everything we do. They treated us like stars.” 

Wishes for Teachers

What it is: A program that grants teachers $5,000 each through random drawings.

How to apply: Teachers can fill out the online form with their information and a description of their wish at: from Oct. 6 to Nov. 3.

How to donate: Text ‘wishlist’ to 51555 or use the online donation form. The donation period runs from Sept. 24 to Nov. 3.

Read More ‘Wishes for Teachers’:

Grants help make teachers wishes come true

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