The Million Dollar Teacher Project is a Valley nonprofit that wants to see more support for teachers inside and outside the classroom. Since its inception in 2016, MDTP has helped around 3,000 teachers and 90,000 students in 16 school districts across the Phoenix metro area.
The project recently celebrated its fourth anniversary and continues to work with schools to create community-driven initiatives.
“We partner with schools to increase teacher recognition, drive more support directly into their classrooms and create innovative ways to impact how they are compensated,” Founder and Executive Director Lloyd Hopkins said.
Hopkins looks forward to working with more schools in the Arcadia area. MDTP partnered with Pima Traditional School in the Scottsdale Unified School District through the Million Dollar Teacher Tree Initiative, which donated over $4,000 in school supplies to the school.
The Teacher Tree Initiative is a classroom supply drive where teachers make a list of what they need for support. The list is then shared with the local community who can give back and help the teachers do more in the classroom. The first two years of the drive were done in partnership with Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall. This year it went virtual to keep the donations and teacher support strong throughout the pandemic.
By planning easily accessible and cost-effective programs, Hopkins says that MDTP can significantly help the community. The Take a Teacher to Lunch program is made possible through partnerships with local restaurants and businesses. The program brings catered lunches to school campuses to provide a morale boost for teachers through a good meal.
There’s also the One in a Million Teacher Series. Each month, a teacher who goes above and beyond gets recognized through MDTP social media with rewards like massages and dinner packages.
MDTP also partners with community high schools and colleges to recruit teams of interns and volunteers to directly support teachers in the classroom, assisting with their workload through parent engagement, lesson planning, curriculum, classroom management and group or one-on-one work with students.
“We also partner with businesses to offer meaningful discounts to educators on goods and services,” Hopkins said. “Teachers have an opportunity to retain more of their salary, and the community has the opportunity to highlight and support teachers and show that they appreciate them through these discounts.”
The list of participating restaurants, gas stations and stores continues to grow as MDTP looks to raise awareness for teachers and the many challenges they face, such as low pay, out-of-pocket expenses, long hours and poor work-life balance. MDTP wants to see more support and celebration of the teaching profession, which will help current teachers and encourage others to pursue the pathway.
“I think as a society, we forget how important the profession is,” Hopkins said. “If we think about it, teachers are the cornerstone of society, impacting all professions and aspects of our lives. For eight to nine months out of the year, teachers often spend more time with our kids than we do, and we are entrusting them to care for our students.”