Ashley Franklin, a K-6 special education teacher, had a surprise this past fall when she was selected as a Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers recipient. She is one of four faculty members from Justine Spitalny Elementary School who have had a wish granted over the past few years.

Since the program began five years ago, $3.7 million has been granted to nearly 850 teachers across the state.

Franklin’s wish was for sensory items and equipment for the classroom. This wish was conceived with the intention of supporting the academic, social-emotional and sensory needs of her students.

With the grant, she was able to purchase new books on social-emotional learning, sensory buckets, a tent to serve as a stress-free student quiet space, a mini-trampoline for getting energy out, flexible seating and other items to help aid her students’ learning environment.

So far I have only been able to utilize the books online, but I know what a great impact those other items are going to have because we’ve already had such wonderful discussions and role-playing,” Franklin says.

Among the everyday challenges of teaching, COVID-19 has made it more challenging. The district made the difficult decision to be online for most of the 2020-21 school year.

It has been challenging. I feel like I’ve had to reinvent the wheel in a lot of different ways,” says Franklin. “I’ve really had to learn ways to spice it up, still make it engaging and add more technical aspects that I wasn’t doing much before in the classroom.”

Franklin has a dual degree in general education and special education and is currently in her fifth year of teaching.

Wishes for Teachers is such an amazing opportunity, Fiesta Bowl Charities really does grant so many wishes for so many teachers and we’ve definitely seen the effects here at Spitalny,” says Franklin.