Name: Mary McGraw
School: Anza Trail School
District: Sahuarita Unified District
Since starting as a first grade teacher in Arizona nine years ago, Mary McGraw has always known what her classroom wish would be if the opportunity to cast it ever presented itself.
“I have never had enough materials for my kids to read,” McGraw said. “There is a big push to read non-fiction because the more kids are reading about their world and about things that they are interested in, the more they are learning.”
In 2016-17, the first-grade teacher at Anza Trail School cashed in on her wish. After receiving $5,000 through Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program, McGraw expanded on her classroom reading library.
“This wouldn’t have happened without the Fiesta Bowl,” McGraw said. “The grant I received changed my classroom. It was truly a dream come true.”
With the grant, McGraw was able to purchase 22 Chromebooks for her classroom and two, three-year subscriptions to an online reading program that allows each student the opportunity to self-select any book they are interested in and that fits their reading level.
“You walk into my classroom and right away students are excited because we have computers which a lot of other classrooms don’t have,” McGraw explained. “Then they see all the books they are able to read on them and they love it.”
Prior to receiving the Fiesta Bowl Charities grant, McGraw would often use her own money to purchase necessary classroom materials, something that is common among teachers.
“My annual budget for my classroom is $250 a year which is about average for teachers,” McGraw said. “Every teacher I know spends their own money in varying degrees. There are single moms trying to get by who are still going to the store and buying things for their students.”
With the Wishes for Teachers money, McGraw has given her students the materials they need to have success and as first-grade students, the timing could not be more critical.
According to McGraw, the first and second grade levels are vital in the success of a young student. Leading up to the third grade, students are learning to read but after the third grade they are reading to learn.
“Kindergarten provides the foundation and first grade is the year that they should be reading,” McGraw explained. “If students are not strong readers by the end of first grade then they will likely struggle with every other subject area as well.”
With her new Chromebooks, McGraw has seen a change in the way her students feel about reading. Not only do her students now have access to any book in the world but the way they are receiving their information is more interactive and engaging.
“I am seeing the students who haven’t yet had success in reading want to read more because the new technology is fun so they are more willing to take those risks,” said McGraw.
Now that McGraw’s wish has been granted, she is encouraging teachers throughout her district to apply for the future years of the Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program, which has increased its funding every year.
“It means so much to know that the Fiesta Bowl supports you,” McGraw said. “There are a lot of tough jobs out there but to know the community is behind you makes going to work every day, that much better. I am so grateful for this program.”