One in a Million: Aran Kelly


Name: Aran Kelly

School: Alhambra High School

Grade:  9-12

Support Needed: Basic school supplies: especially…pencils, highlighters, notebooks, journals, printing cartridges (HP 62)

How long have you been a teacher? Including subbing and teaching artist residencies – 6 years. Certified: 2 years

Having breakthroughs with students and seeing the lightbulb go off.
Both older brothers are teachers, so were my parents at one point.

I am a former special education student who has found an expressive outlet through spoken word poetry. I have developed IEP preparation curriculum which incorporates spoken word performance and poetic elements. The results have resulted in students students self stating that they felt empowered as they played an active role as the leader of the IEP meeting, as opposed to a fly on the wall which is how I remember it. This easy process builds student’s self confidence and produces individuals who can articulate their needs on their own, in a job interview. I want to empower students to be confident, educated, and successful citizens.

Who was your most inspirational teacher and why?
This is a tough question to answer because there has been more than one teacher who has inspired me during my academic career, and in different ways. I was inspired by my high school chemistry teacher, Dr. Thornburg, to sacrifice my lunch hour to help my students stay ahead; so long as they meet me half way. With Dr. Thornburg’s help, I passed high school chemistry with an A.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges teachers in Arizona face right now?
Lack of support from the state level and lack of commitment to education. The state of Arizona spends more on prisons than it does on education. Consequently, the teachers in Arizona have all of their interest in keeping students out of prison while the state has all of their interests in putting students in there. On average, Arizona prison guards make more than teachers. As of April 29th, 2018 correctional officers in Yuma are paid $44, 333.

How do these issues affect your day to day?
A lot of the issues are beyond my control. Issues stem from poverty and poverty in the home. Racial and cultural differences come into play as well.

What does the $250 tax deduction for school supplies for teachers mean to you?
Not much unless I itemize. It’s basically an empty gesture, also it means that I still have to come out of pocket to pay for supplies.

How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different than the reality?
As a special education teacher I have extra duties to perform, things which were not included in the job description.

Bringing a duffel bag with extra clothes to class for the teen who wets himself, coordinating information on your prep from 3 different departments and getting signatures so an autistic student can be a ball boy for the basketball team all because the person who ran the Best Buddies program abandoned the post, and picking up the cap and gown on my lunch hour for a senior who is at home recovering from surgery have been parts of my reality as  a teacher. Being expected by the administration to perform duties that are above and beyond what is written in my contract has been part of my reality as a teacher.

Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?
Illiteracy is a huge ineptitude for many of my students and literacy programs are costly, limited, or non existent. Lack of support for the teachers and students from the district and state are very evident. Frustration from the inability for teachers to provide what they need to teach their students is a problem. The demands placed on teachers deprive them of the time needed to look after themselves both mentally and physically. Teachers take work home with them and have very little spare time. Special Education teachers are particularly impacted by all of the deficits that prevent the expertise needed to address their student’s mental health issues. A lot of teachers have to take on second and third jobs to make ends meet. My second job is as an NCAA, collegiate water polo announcer.

What “fills your cup” when you’re running on empty?
Spinning records at home and writing poetry, plus, rocking microphones fills my cup.

What are some of the most thoughtful and effective ways parents and the community can show gratitude?
Show up to the IEP meetings and team up with teachers.

Support the “Red for Ed” movement and go to the polls in November. It’s time to vote out of office folks unwilling to invest in education. Funding programs, classrooms, the arts and teachers is an investment in all of our future.  Thank you to the parents and community members who showed up at the Phoenix Capital Building to support teachers and education at the end of April. Keep the rock steady.

What is your wish for Arizona’s children?
My wish for Arizona’s children is for them to feel like education really matters. I want them to know that they live in a safe state and country that cares about equipping them with the information, tools and skills to be successful in life. At the moment, I believe that children in Arizona schools are not convinced that the State and Country overall, have their backs regarding education and gun control.

Who do people contact if they want to offer you additional support or where do people send supplies if they want to make a donation to your class?
Thank you in advance, your support is appreciated and does make a difference.


My email address is:

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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+