Most people can name a teacher who has had a particularly special impact on their lives, whether it was giving extra attention to help bring up a grade, creating a special educational program to make learning exciting or providing support during a difficult time at home.
Through the Most Valuable Teachers program, the D-backs and the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation recognize local teachers each month who have gone above and beyond and want to help tell those special and unique stories.
Each month through August, the D-backs honor teachers and provide them with a $1,000 grant to use toward classroom supplies and school programs. In September, the D-backs recognize a Teacher of the Year, who receives an on-field recognition and $5,000 grant.
“I think that it’s so wonderful when something like this happens, because it acknowledges to every person in our profession that we are valued and we are treasured by society,” said Nancy Foote, a D-backs fan who teaches eighth-grade physics at Sossaman Middle School and was the program’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.
“It gives a sense of empowerment to teachers,” added MaryAnn Cawley, who teaches science and STEM at Sonoran Foothills School and was the 2018 Teacher of the Year. “When you invest in our teachers and give them the resources they need, it’s a domino effect, because it empowers the students, as well.”
The grant money that the teachers receive is used in a variety of ways. Cawley used her grant money to sustain the STEM and robotics programs that she runs at her school. She also used it toward student field trips to encourage her students to interact with professionals outside of the classroom.
Foote used some of the money to get new science equipment for her class and gave away the rest to other teachers in the school to help them with the new school year and to show her colleagues some appreciation.
However, teachers will be quick to admit that money and recognition are not the reasons they got into this profession.
“No one teaches for an award,” said George Cardenas, a science teacher at Wilson College Prep and the 2019 Teacher of the Year. “I do it because I love it, and I want to make a difference.”
Cardenas is passionate about helping his students make a difference. He used his grant money to fund service projects by his students and to get new materials and tools for his science class.
“It was one of the most memorable days of my life,” said Cardenas about the D-backs surprising him at school with the award. “Eduardo Escobar was there. He was so friendly and gave great advice about pursuing your dreams, which was so great for the kids.”
In the D-backs’ Most Valuable Teachers program, educators are nominated by former and current students, as well as by the occasional parent or colleague. To be selected for this award, the D-backs look for nominations of teachers who make a strong impact on their students, strive to be leaders and have the ability to improve their schools and its programs.
“I started crying,” said Foote about the day she found out she had won during a special visit to her classroom by mascot D. Baxter and former D-backs pitcher Shelby Miller. She recalled being surprised with a D-backs jersey with her name on it, something she had always wanted. She even got to meet Mark Grace, one her all-time favorite players, at the on-field recognition at Chase Field.
Nominations for the 2020 season are now open. You can nominate an educator that has made a difference at dbacks.com/mvt.