DeFusco Law firm awarded 18 teachers in the Scottsdale Unified School District $300 stipends to use toward school supplies this year.
The Scottsdale firm does this twice a year and awards 10 teachers with stipends. But this year, the firm allocated additional funds to its effort through a recently settled claim referred to the firm by a Cocopah Middle School staff member.
“This round was different,” said Bryn K. DeFusco, who founded DeFusco Law with her husband Andy in 2016. “We decided we would donate our fees back to the school district and we thought what better way than through the stipend program.”
DeFusco Law, which represents accident victims and their families, started its Classroom Supply Stipend in 2018 and has since donated more than $25,000 for certified teachers to use.
This year’s recipients are: Hohokam Elementary’s Susan Barnes and Chloe Flitton; Anasazi Elementary’s Dawndy Bendet; Coronado High’s Sara Cain and Marissa Palmer; Cocopah Middle School’s Marcia DeMuro and Carline Fried; Desert Canyon Elementary’s Katie Honeycutt; Chaparral High’s Malcolm Leinwhol and Noël Rosenthal; Echo Canyon K-8’s Lisa Port and Jennifer Wells; Tonalea K-8’s Dr. Paula Slamowitz, Alexandra Valenzuela and William Williams; Navajo Elementary’s Robin Wiley and Brandy Wilson; and Ingleside Middle School’s Rhonda Witherspoon.
Malcolm Leinwhol, a biology teacher at Chaparral, plans to use his stipend to purchase Owl pellets, mitosis microscope slides, predator-prey lab manipulatives, as he feels “students learn science by doing science.”
“With these supplies, more of my students will be doing science,” Leinwhol said.
His colleague Noël Rosenthal, who also teaches biology, used the money to purchase three skulls from the canine family to use as a visual aid when teaching about evolution.
Rosenthal estimates the skulls will assist over 160 students in her classes this year and in the years to come.
One teacher used the money to update her classroom and get supplies to buttress her curriculum.
Wilson teaches 5th grade at Navajo and has already used the stipend to purchase three new wobble chairs – which she said her students love – along with some pop-it silicone discs to use as a tool to help with pronouncing multisyllabic words and consumable paper bags to use for projects.
“I learned long ago that students get really excited to learn when learning is fun,’’ Wilson said. “I know on my teaching and planning side that this “fun” also engages the growing brain.”
Wilson was not the only one to make some updates to her classroom.
Slamowitz teaches social studies at Tonalea K-8 school and plans to use the stipend to purchase supplemental materials for her students to create hands-on learning activities.
“This stipend was used to update some classroom decorations in my room to make my room more engaging for my students to learn in,” Slamowitz said.
Other teachers, like Lisa Port of Echo Canyon K-8, used the stipend to load up on general supplies for middle school students and eliminate any stress that students may have about not having things they need.
“It is one less stress the students will have. Middle school is hard enough without any extra worries,” Port said. “This will allow students to quietly come into my room to get what they need and not have to worry or become upset.”
The stipend will also help replace a beloved figure that was lost in the fire at Navajo Elementary school.
Kindergarten teacher Robin Wiley had purchased a puppet of The Little Old Lady from the book series that was only used once before it was lost in a 2018 fire.
Wiley plans to purchase a new puppet to use for story time along with several art supplies.
Beyond awarding several supplies, DeFusco Law also gave an unexpected prize by eliminating the burden of teachers using their own money to buy supplies.
“For the first time in my 19-year career, I was able to enjoy back to school shopping for my classroom without worrying about my wallet,” exclaimed Carline Fried, a 7th grade math teacher at Cocopah Middle School.
DeFusco Law saw 70 teachers apply for the stipends this year and has plans to award at least five more stipends this December.
Though DeFusco has no limit to what the teachers can use the stipend money for, she does hope that the students benefit from the items purchased.
“When we have happy teachers and our teachers are supplied, our kids will get educated well,” DeFusco said.
She also hopes this will spur future donations to schools across the state.
“My hope is that more businesses and community members will step up and want to help out local schools even if it’s not with this program,” DeFusco said.