Silver Apple recipient teaches academic, life lessons to students with tough backgrounds

Ms. Michaela Puffer at Midtown Primary School in central Phoenix is the latest Silver Apple Award winner.
Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 12:00 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Michaela Puffer has been teaching for 18 years at Midtown Primary School in central Phoenix. Even though she says her fourth graders are growing up in tough circumstances, she works to inspire them, teaching them both academic and life lessons in her classroom.

Principal at Midtown Belinda Suggs says 100% of her students qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, and 30% of the children are homeless. Each child is dealing with very difficult personal circumstances. However, Ms. Michaela, as her students call her, always makes sure her kids know her classroom is a safe place, treating them like they are her family.

“I treat them, I try to always, like they’re my own children,” says Ms. Michaela. She said she draws on her own life experience to inspire her students. “I sometimes share stories about myself and letting them know about the tough situations I’ve come through,” Ms. Michaela said. “[I want] to let them know anything is possible with hard work. That’s the key, the hard work... and believing in yourself.”

We visited Ms. Michaela’s classroom to present her with the Silver Apple Award, and right away, it was evident just how much her students love her. They cheered for her and all lined up to give her a hug to congratulate her. Ms. Michaela often invests extra time and effort into her students and has high expectations for them.

It’s one of the many reasons why Laura Hernandez, the mother of a former student, nominated Ms. Michaela for the award. Hernandez read the following nomination letter to Ms. Michaela:

After hearing the letter, Ms. Michaela could not hold back the tears. “It means more than you could possibly know,” Ms. Michaela told Hernandez. “This job can sometimes be hard, and we know teachers don’t get paid as much as they should, but when we know we’re appreciated and we know we make a difference, that’s why we’re here.”

Arizona Bank and Trust is paying Ms. Michaela some much due respect and a check. “I’m so privileged to be able to give you this check for $1000 today,” said Miles Miley from Arizona Bank & Trust. “As you said, sometimes teachers can be underappreciated, and we want you to know we totally appreciate you and love the work you’re doing.”

When we talked to the students, they were quick to want to tell us why they love their teacher so much. One student named Syrryne said, “She helps us with everything we need help with.” Another student named faith told us, “We’ll do long division, and it’s very tricky and she’ll help us a lot.”

Another student named Diego shared, “I really enjoy all this time I’ve had with her, and she really is the best. She’s encouraged us all try our best and do everything we can.”