One In A Million: September 2023: David Solano


Name: David Solano

School: Palm Lane Elementary

Grade(s) you teach: 4th

How many students in your class(es) this academic year?  33

How long have you been a teacher? 25 years

What made you get into the teaching profession?
I wanted to make an impact in my community. I wanted to show people in my community that we can succeed.

Who was your most inspirational teacher & why?
My parents were my biggest inspiration. Yes, I had great teachers but my parents were the biggest influence in my life. They pushed me to overcome many obstacles in life.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges teachers in Arizona face right now? low pay, classroom resources and supplies. The low teacher retention is tough too, It’s making us have bigger classroom numbers right now

How do these issues affect your day to day?
I sometimes have to buy my own classroom supplies. I have to budget a lot more with my own kids so I can buy stuff needed for the classroom. It makes me tentative to start bigger projects in the classroom because of the prices of having to buy the extra materials.

What does the $250 tax deduction for school supplies for teachers mean to you?
It’s a small token. But many times the $250 is spent just to get the school year started.

 How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different from reality?
This is tough to answer because I love being a teacher. I love working with kids each and everyday. I love coaching kids, I had high expectations since the beginning. I think the reality is we can’t make everybody learn everything we teach, but we cab make everybody smarter and better throughout the year. We can improve each child as a person. The math and reading skills may not be where they need to be but after a year in my class, they’ll be closer to where they need to be. Teaching reality is more about growth.

Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?
The burnout is tough. It’s a fast-paced job with low pay in the beginning. I feel that over time the pay becomes better but sticking it out is tough, Mentally and physically. The importance of a close teaching staff gets overlooked. The close staff can help you get through the tough times.

Do you typically feel appreciated or recognized as a teacher? I feel at times, that I am appreciated, but at other times I feel overwhelmed with work and test scores. If the class is doing well on test scores we’re looked at differently. Teacher appreciation is a week out of the year.

What “fills your cup” when you’re running on empty?
Cold Pepsi fills my cup when it’s empty, No, my own kids feel my cup. The smiles on their face each night fill my cup.  When I am running my open gym and former players and students come back to visit me that fills my cup up.  Knowing I made an impact in other’s lives fills up my cup. When I see other kids wearing my basketball shirt that fills my cup.

What are some of the most thoughtful & effective ways parents & the community can show gratitude?
A way to show gratitude is a weekly hello from parents or people in the community. A thank you on any other week than teacher appreciation week.

What is your wish for Arizona’s children?

I want an even playing field across the state. I want kids in maryvale to have the same opportunities as the kids in Scottsdale. I want the schools in the rural area to have the same stuff as the schools in the suburbs. Arizona is so far apart in this category. I want the children in the inner city parts of Phoenix to understand they can achieve success.

What additional support or supplies do you need in your classroom & who do people contact if they want to help out?

Extra supplies, I guess I could never have enough white board markers, copy paper, Mr. Sketch markers, a nice strong pencil sharpener.  A nice sett of classroom headphones.  I’m not sure what you mean about who to contact but maybe the Principal Scott Nigh.

What types of items/prizes are meaningful to you to win/be gifted?

I honestly don’t know here,  I’ve always given back to my community and the kids I work with that I never really thought about what I would want.  A 12-pack of Pepsi maybe. I guess items I could share with my family, movie tickets, Suns tickets (since I’ve been in a wheelchair we haven’t been able to sit as a family at any game we’ve been too). Possible restaurant cards for my family.  Very tough to answer this. You just asking and acknowledging that I do positive work is a meaningful prize.

What is/are your FAVORITE…

  • Color? Blue/orange
  • Food/restaurant? Oregano’s
  • Music/group/artist?
  • Sport/athletics team? Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns
  • Pastime/hobby? I love building the adult Lego sets

You will be able to see and support this teacher as a part of our Feel Like a Million Dollars competition this year where the winning teacher receives a prize package of gifts and cash during our annual fundraiser in July!

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Growing the Tree

Million Dollar Teacher Tree was first developed in a classroom by students in a program called, Next Generation Service Corps at Arizona State University in December of 2017. These students were tasked by Lloyd Hopkins, founder of Million Dollar Teacher project with developing a project that can potentially become an integral part in helping MDTP achieve its mission. The group eventually developed the original prototype for Million Dollar Teacher Tree—a cutout dollar sign that would be placed in surrounding businesses near the partner school. The idea was pitched to staff members of MDTP during the last of their class, and the project was picked up by MDTP as a new pilot program for the organization. After many months of planning, the prototype was eventually revamped into what it is today, Million Dollar Teacher Tree.

Golden Apple

These apples are intended to provide any sort of Professional Development which, in turn, gifts them with key knowledge to add to their personal skill-set to better work with their students.

As educators, teachers are constantly looking to continually grow in their profession to not only learn how to better connect with their students, but to also make the learning experience much more exciting.

Suggested donation amount range: $10 – $100

Red Apple

These apples are designed to provide the typical day-to-day items in the classroom. Teachers spend can spend upwards of $1,000 out of pocket to have enough supplies yearlong for their students– to alleviate this, the Red Apples were created.

Everyday school supplies include; pencils, notebooks, crayons, hand sanitizer, etc.

Green Apple

These apples are intended to provide a big-ticket item for the teachers. These supplies are typically something that the teachers can use for more than one school year.

Examples include; a class-set of computers or new furniture for the classroom.

Suggested donation amount: $500+