TOLLESON, AZ (Silver Apple Award) -- Even though schools are closed, nothing was going to stop us here at Arizona's Family from surprising a teacher and handing out a Silver Apple Award.

From my kitchen table to Mandy Fierro's front porch, an online meeting would be our tool of surprise. Fierro thought it was a simple video conference call. But she knew something was up when she saw my face.

"This is our Silver Apple Award," I told her. "You have been nominated and officially awarded a Silver Apple Award. Thank you for being an excellent teacher!"

Mandy Fierro

Fierro is a STEM and fourth-grade teacher at Desert Oasis Elementary School in Tolleson. What is unique about this particular award recipient is the nominating student. He's a senior in high school. Sonny Molinar was in Fierro's classroom eight years ago. Since then, she has continued to be a strong influence in his life.

"Mrs. Fierro is such an amazing teacher. She goes out of her way to help students who need extra support," said Molinar, who joined us on the video conference call to read his nomination letter. "She is there early in the mornings, runs the after-school STEM program, and even comes on the weekends to allow students to finish their project. It almost seems like she lives at school."

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"Now, as a senior in high school, I look back and wish for her to get the recognition she deserves," Molinar continued.

Fierro wiped tears from her face after Molinar read his letter. "You were worth it, every step of the way," she told him. "And I will always be there to support you, no matter what. Even when you're in college."

Molinar will study chemical engineering at Arizona State University. Fierro helped him with his application.

"Knowing that I'm helping them prepare for when they get out of school, to go and make a difference in the world -- that's where I really get my satisfaction in what I do," Fierro explained

The online meeting wasn't the only surprise we had for her. We also presented her with a $1,000 check from the Arizona Dairy Council.

"That would buy me a lot of STEM stuff," Fierro said, already making plans to spend that money in her classroom for the next set of students she will influence and affect for a lifetime.


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