A Peoria music teacher was awarded $5,000 through the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program and used all the funds to add instruments to her classroom.
Emily Hendricks, a kindergarten through third grade general music teacher at Great Hearts Archway Classical Academy Glendale, was one of 200 Arizona teachers granted $2,500 through the program. Donors Choose, a nonprofit organization that allows people to donate directly to public school classroom projects, matched the award money, allowing Hendricks to add even more music into her classroom.
“I didn’t think it was real. I honestly thought I got scammed,” Hendricks joked. “When I realized it was real, I just felt really proud. It was amazing to be chosen. I felt really, really special to be chosen for winning the grant. I just felt really blessed and privileged.”
Hendricks purchased Boomwhackers, which are tuned percussion tubes that teach pitch and rhythm, whether by banging them to find a beat or reading music to create pitches. Additionally, she bought all her students new ukuleles, which she said will expose her students to a diverse set of sounds.
As a music teacher, Hendricks said adding instruments and teaching devices for her classes allows for the students’ appreciation for music to grow.
“I’ve done the whole online thing and teaching the content is great, but there’s nothing like having those interactions with the students and seeing my joy for the music rub off on them,” she said. “They give me their joy and their new curiosity and just look at music in different ways, through the eyes of a kindergartener or third grader.”
As Hendricks enters her second year at the academy, she admitted she initially didn’t want to become a teacher after graduating from Grand Canyon University in 2019.
“I was fighting teaching. I didn’t want to do it, but I just really felt that God was pushing me toward teaching, and now it’s what gives me purpose. I find a lot of joy teaching here, and I know it’s where I’m supposed to be,” Hendricks said.
Now, Hendricks said the students have easily become her favorite part of her job and that Great Hearts has been the perfect fit for her.
“It’s really a supportive community,” she said. “I don’t think I could have had a better first experience as a teacher. Anything I need, they help, whether it’s advice or lessons or help acquiring or finding materials or even just experts in the field to talk to. There are lots of people here who are very supportive and helpful in building me as a teacher and helping me become a better teacher.”
Hendricks has been involved in music her entire life and said she loved that she was able to make a career of it.
“I have been around music for basically as long as I can remember,” Hendricks said. “My sisters and I used to sing songs at churches, special music, I sang in college, and it was just a really important part of our family life growing up.”
Maureen Robinson, a fourth and fifth grade music teacher at Great Hearts Archway Classical Academy, said Hendricks is a talented musician, which makes her that much better of a teacher for her students.
“She’s a great musician, a great singer. She plays a piano, and she works really hard at honing her teaching craft, so she’s always researching and reading and getting better,” Robinson said.
Robinson said she isn’t surprised Hendricks donated the money back to her classroom. All the teachers at the academy are committed to making it the best program and experience for the students, she added.
“I think all of the teachers at the school will do anything to make education more joyful, more meaningful and more useful for the students,” Robinson said.
“Emily is completely dedicate, and so are all the teachers. I haven’t seen a teacher at this school who’s not completely dedicated like that.”
Moving forward, Hendricks said she is looking forward to utilizing the new instruments and supplies the award money provided. She also wants to grow as a teacher.
“Nobody deserved the funding more than Emily, and I can’t think of a person who would use it better than Emily,” Robinson said.