‘I could cry’: Paradise Valley teacher surprised with Fiesta Bowl Charities grant

Mary Gomez, a teacher from Paradise Valley, was among 500 educators selected to receive a grant from Fiesta Bowl Charities.
Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 10:33 AM MST|Updated: Nov. 2, 2023 at 10:35 AM MST
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PARADISE VALLEY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A Valley school teacher just got a big surprise — all thanks to the Palo Verde Fiesta Bowl Charities, “Wishes for Teachers.” Each year, Fiesta Bowl Charities provides financial support for educators through their Wishes for Teachers program. This year, they’re awarding 500 grants to teachers.

For the past 24 years, Mary Gomez has had the same passion for teaching. “Make sure you’re pronouncing it not in Spanish but you’re saying, ‘uh’ in ‘but,’” Gomez explained to her students during a lesson. “So what two letters, guys? E, and T.”

Gomez teaches English as a second language, helping native Spanish speakers thrive in a new environment. “They need to learn English to be successful citizens and successful in their neighborhoods,” she explained.

She says though challenging, the work is always worth it. “I think the growth, that’s probably the most rewarding,” she said. That’s why Gomez always goes above and beyond for her students. “Repetition is so important,” she added.

Arizona’s Family led Gomez to believe our interview was for a segment on the challenges of learning English. She had no idea she was one of the winners! “This is the Fiesta Bowl charity and I wanted to call and let you know your wish to purchase resources for your English as a second language learner students has been granted,” a Fiesta Bowl spokesperson said. “Oh my gosh that is fantastic! That is going to benefit my students so much,” Gomez replied.

Gomez secured $2,500 for her classroom thanks to the grant. “I’m overwhelmed, and I want to cry,” she said.

The money, Gomez says, will go towards classroom supplies and posters to help students learn. “Our values are to get the wishes of you and teachers like you the resources that they need for their students. So, thank you, and someone from the Fiesta Bowl will be in touch,” said a representative for the Fiesta Bowl.

Gomez added the grant money will be a huge help, especially for her lower-income students. “My students will look at me when I hold up a composition notebook and a folder and say, ‘Well, I don’t have that.’ And now I will say, ‘Well, here is a gift for you,’” she said.

This year, the Fiesta Bowl Charities are awarding a total of $1.255 million for teachers, the most they’ve ever given out.

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