One In A Million: October 2023: Sara Kilduff

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Name: Sara Kilduff 

School & District: Thew Elementary School, Tempe School District

Grade(s) you teach: Second grade

How many students in your class(es) this academic year? 18 currently

How long have you been a teacher? I am in my second year of teaching.

What made you get into the teaching profession?

In my elementary years, I was fortunate enough to have strong and nurturing teachers. My younger brother, Matthew, had learning challenges and I found myself helping him study and learn subjects that were very difficult for him. Early on I experienced the joy of seeing him go from frustrated to understanding difficult concepts. More than anything, I enjoy seeing the light bulb go off and inspiring students to persevere, even when faced with challenges. 

Who was your most inspirational teacher & why?

My most inspirational teacher was my second grade teacher, Mrs. Coulter. At seven years old, I was a very shy and worried filled kid. Mrs. Coulter challenged me to learn to be a better reader and nurtured me to be confident in what I was capable of learning. Her consistent approach helped this shy seven year old grow into a confident and successful student. Beyond second grade, Mrs. Coulter tutored me throughout my elementary school years and became a close family friend and mentor. Leading into my first year of teaching, Mrs. Coulter gifted me a file filled with a whole year’s worth of lesson plans. She truly is an inspirational teacher and person and I strive to be that for my students.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges teachers in Arizona face right now?

Like all jobs, teachers face many challenges. Some of the biggest ones teachers in Arizona face are: Time for planning and other school related obligations outside of the classroom, low salary, and self-funded supplies.

How do these issues affect your day to day?

There is a lot of extra time required outside of the classroom for planning and parent/family communication. With the high cost of living and spending money on classroom expenses, I’ve needed a second job to make ends meet.

What does the $250 tax deduction for school supplies for teachers mean to you?

The $250 tax deduction has little to no impact on affecting my taxes in a positive way.

How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different from reality?

In college, much time was dedicated to learning best practices of how to teach. In reality, those best practices are frequently interrupted when student behaviors arise. The real time on the job training is different and more challenging than the college classroom setting provides. 

Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?

Successful teaching requires a village, having support from students and parents, other teachers, and administration. Missing one or more of these support tennants makes the job more difficult. The teacher becomes the catch all and the amount of time and energy required becomes too much.

Do you typically feel appreciated or recognized as a teacher?

Unless you are a teacher, it is difficult to understand the amount of effort and energy required to successfully teach a classroom of 20+ children. Because of this, I do not feel recognized or appreciated as a teacher.

What “fills your cup” when you’re running on empty?

What “fills my cup” is when students from my first year of teaching come back to say hi or share how they are doing in third grade. One example is learning that a student from last year nominated me for this One In A Million award! 🙂

What are some of the most thoughtful & effective ways parents & the community can show gratitude?

Through partnering. Engaged parents helping with their children’s education and community involvement with the school show through actions that the educational profession is valued. 

What is your wish for Arizona’s children? My wish for Arizona’s children is that they always have a happy, healthy, safe environment to learn.

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

This year, Thew Elementary has a focus on literacy improvement. In support of this focus, we could use age-appropriate books (2nd grade), expo markers, student white boards, pencils, colored pencils, highlighters, etc. I can be reached at

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

I love to receive gift cards/money that can be used in my free time!

What is/are your FAVORITE…

– Color? Pink and red.

– Food/restaurant? Sushi is my favorite food and my favorite restaurants are nobu and postinos.

– Music/group/artist? Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran 🙂

– Sport/athletics team? Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals, Red Sox, 49ers, SF Giants and the Patriots.

– Pastime/hobby? Reading, pickleball, pilates.

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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+