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:


• Nicole Young, a fifth grade teacher at Alta Loma Elementary School, will use the funds to purchase materials and supplies for hands on learning.

• Amanda Dismukes, a technology teacher at Challenge Charter School, will use the funds to provide tablets for students.

• Kori Klein, a visual art teacher at Copper Canyon High School, will use the funds to purchase a new sound system to allow students to listen to music that inspire creative and artistic ideas for their projects.

• Bailey Williams, a fourth grade grade teacher at Copperwood Elementary, will use the funds to provide Chromebooks for the class.

• Sabrina Cole, an art teacher at Desert Garden Elementary School, will use the funds to purchase new art materials for the students.

• Douglas Bruce, a programming, robotics and game design teacher at Desert Heights Preparatory Academy, will use the funds to purchase robots and materials to engage students in hands-on investigation of STEM concepts. 

• Julie Trent, a band and orchestra teacher at Glendale High School, will use the funds to purchase accessories to allow more students to have access to the musical instruments.  

• Kenneth Bloomfield, a physical education teacher at Hillcrest Middle School, will use the funds to purchase additional equipment for physical education class.

• Phuong Kieu, an integrated science teacher at Independence High School, will use the funds to purchase personal whiteboards for each student in class.  

• Katie DeVito, a third grade teacher at Legend Springs Elementary School, will use the funds to provide new seating options for her students to promote a better learning environment. 

• Colin Apthorp, a chemistry teacher at Liberty High School, will use the funds to purchase equipment and supplies for the science lab.

• Gail Hayes, a kindergarten through fourth grade teacher at Moon Mountain Elementary School, will use the funds to purchase items for students to earn with “Behavior Bucks,” such as sensory items, different seating and prize box items.

“Teachers are our unsung heroes who give so much to our students in helping them become tomorrow’s leaders,” said Mike Nealy, Fiesta Bowl executive director.

“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. 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