Last Updated on August 26, 2022 by Luke Feldbrugge
The Million Dollar Teacher Project is dedicated to elevating the teaching profession through increased recognition, compensation and support. Their vision is to create a world where every student is taught by a highly trained, qualified, understanding and engaged teacher. The Homes for Heroes Foundation awarded the organization a $5,000 hero grant to assist in their mission.
It’s easy to talk about how much we appreciate the teachers in our communities, but it’s quite another to walk into your local school and help renovate the teachers’ lounge (pulling carpet, scraping floors, painting). The Million Dollar Teacher Project is about action – supporting teachers with more than just words. Their range of activities is what prompted the Homes for Heroes Foundation to give them this grant, the second one we have given the organization.
Lisa Welsh, director of the foundation, said “This dynamic organization epitomizes the ability to translate gratitude for the teaching profession into tactics that help teachers, day-to-day, month-by-month, year-after-year.”
As the director of Million Dollar Teacher Project puts it: “You know the health of our teaching profession is a community issue. It’s something that we all should care about because teachers are shaping our future. None of us escape life without being impacted by a teacher in some shape, form, or fashion.”
The Homes for Heroes Foundation gave a $5,000 grant to the organization to help it fulfill its mission. This Homes for Heroes Foundation grant is part of the Homes for Heroes’ Circle of Giving, providing assistance for heroes in dire need across the country.
Million Dollar Teacher Project Interview with Jay Flynn
Homes for Heroes Outreach Coordinator, Jay Flynn, talks to Lloyd Hopkins and Laura Roman. You can watch the full interview here or read the transcript of the interview below.
Jay: Hello and thanks for joining us today. I’m Jay Flynn, Homes for Heroes outreach coordinator, and I’m joined today by Lloyd Hopkins, who’s the founder and executive director of the Million Dollar Teacher Project, and also Laura Roman, Homes for Heroes real estate specialist. Hi guys, how are you all?
Lloyd: We are fantastic. I’m glad to be here today.
Jay: Awesome, , well thanks for becoming part of the Homes for Heroes Circle of Giving. The Homes for Heroes Foundation provides grants to nonprofits whose missions are to help heroes in dire need. So Lloyd, Laura and I are happy to share that Million Dollar Teacher Project is a Homes for Heroes Foundation August 2022 grant recipient.
Lloyd: Hey, thank you so much for supporting us for the second time. The support of Homes for Heroes has been immense for our organization.
Jay: Awesome. So Lloyd, without further ado the Homes for Heroes Foundation is honored to present the Million Dollar Teacher Project with a five thousand dollar grant to help with your mission so congratulations
Lloyd: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Jay: Awesome, so Lloyd we know that we owe our teachers a huge “thank you,” especially on the heels of Covid, right? They’ve been through immense challenges, and they’ve got new challenges and new things that they’re having to deal with every day. We hope that this grant helps the Million Dollar Teacher Project serve our teaching heroes. So let’s take a few moments and talk about what the Million Dollar Teacher Project is and its mission.
Laura, you nominated this fine group, so talk to us just a little bit about why and what drove you to nominate the Million Dollar Teacher Project.
Laura: Well you know Lloyd and I were actually introduced the first time by Homes for Heroes. You gave the organization a grant. This was about a year ago, right Lloyd? The foundation reached out to me and said “Hey we have this wonderful non-profit. We’re gonna be presenting this check. Would you like to be part of it?” And I said, “Absolutely.” So I reached out to Lloyd immediately. We connected, and we had lunch. You know one of the things that I picked up on right away was his passion and enthusiasm for serving teachers, which is exactly what we want to do. You know our mission at Homes for Heroes–how we serve our local community. So that was really infectious.
Then he invited us to be a part of a project that he was leading, which was renovating and sprucing up a teacher’s lounge. I had no idea what we were getting into. He says “Come over and help us,” and we’re like “sure.” So my husband and I came over and it was physical labor. He had us scraping floors and taking carpet glue off the floor and everything. It was awesome to be part of that project and getting to meet the principal at the school. The school that was chosen actually was Lloyd’s childhood elementary school, so there was a lot of personal connection there. It felt good just to see the project through and be able to interact with the teachers and know how grateful and excited they were to have a brand new teachers’ lounge. It was really exciting.
And then, just as the year has developed, Lloyd and I have worked on other projects. We have reached out to other school districts where there is still so much to be done. I know that funding is a big part of all those projects that are in the pipeline for Million Dollar Teacher Projects, so that’s why I reached back out to the Foundation and asked for a little bit more funding to help them out.
Jay: Absolutely, well it sounds like that mission aligns with the Homes for Heroes Foundation mission as a whole for sure. So Lloyd, how long has the Million Dollar Teacher Project been serving teachers in Arizona?
Lloyd: We have been around since 2016–six years here in the state of Arizona.
Jay: That’s awesome. As the founder, what motivated you? What made you say one day, “I need to start the Million Dollar Teacher Project.”
Lloyd: It’s in the name of your company, right? Teachers are heroes. I’ve realized that I was a teacher fan early in my career. I’ve worked in and around education in different capacities for years, but the time that resonated with me the most was the time I spent directly in the classroom. I was a teaching assistant in the Alhambra Elementary School District, and the reason that time was just so powerful for me was because I saw teachers show up every day, despite sometimes being under-resourced, sometimes feeling undervalued, sometimes feeling overworked. But they still showed up every day for those kids in the classroom, and for me that was a community issue. You know the health of our teaching profession is a community issue. It’s something that we all should care about because teachers are shaping our future. None of us escape life without being impacted by a teacher in some shape, form, or fashion. So it’s our responsibility to make sure that teachers are happy, healthy, and whole, if we want to make sure our kids are being greeted in an environment to become happy, healthy, whole individuals. Teachers are paramount in that. I’m just one of those crazy I-can-change-the-world-type of guys. I know that everybody’s not going to run out and start an organization to do this type of stuff, because there are a lot of organizations that serve kids. There are a lot of organizations that focus on technology and buildings. But there are not a lot of organizations–when we’re talking about education reform–that focus on the teachers themselves. You know I realized that was a huge gap, a huge need and that’s what led me to start this organization.
Jay: That’s awesome. I see that you’re working on an endowment fund. I believe the purpose of that is to help with some hardships. So talk to us a little bit more about this initiative.
Lloyd: Yes, this initiative has been in the works for six years. When I originally started this organization, one of the things that I wanted to do was create an endowment fund to provide financial assistance for educators. It’s taken us a while to get to the point to actually establish this, so we’re working to launch an endowment fund called the In Teachers We Trust Fund. This fund is going to be used to:
- Provide emergency assistance to teachers experiencing hardships
- Provide scholarships the teachers looking to continue their education
- Provide classroom field trip grants to teachers looking to take their students on academic experiences beyond the classroom
- Provide basic needs assistance to students identified by teachers
We want to create an institution for teachers–starting here in Arizona and at some point nationwide–when they need this type of support, we have a mechanism that’s available for people to provide them that support. It’s easy for people to contribute to really help us grow our impact on educators.
Jay: That’s awesome. That sounds like a very valiant mission that you’re working on there with that initiative, in addition to your other projects. I know you guys do so much. What other projects do you have going on?
Lloyd: Like Laura mentioned, if you ever want to come out and lift up some carpet and knock out some cabinets, you can join us for a lounge “spruce up” project. That’s one of our initiatives. Our program model revolves around three pillar areas:
We work with Title One schools to help them increase how our teachers are recognized, to drive more support directly into their classrooms and to create innovative ways to impact how their teachers are compensated.
Under each of those buckets we have different initiatives. So under the support and recognition, we do things like “spruce up lounge.” We also do “take a teacher to lunch” where we bring full catered lunch celebrations directly onto school campuses to celebrate a grade level of teachers.
We do classroom supply drives, called the Million Dollar Teacher Tree, where we engage the community in helping to eliminate the expense that teachers spend, out of their own pockets, on classroom supplies. We do our classroom supply drive every single year.
We also do a program called Classroom Support Team, where we bring volunteers and interns directly onto a campus to support great teachers. So we have a diverse array of ways for people to plug in and get involved with our work. You can always visit our website and find the whole list of different programs that we do.
Jay: Absolutely. Lloyd, tell us why this grant is important to the Million Dollar Teacher Project and how you guys plan to use it to support our teaching heroes.
Lloyd: Yeah, this grant is important because, as I said, the In Teachers We Trust Fund has been an idea for six years. It wasn’t easy to get to a point that we’ve raised enough money to actually establish that endowment. Homes for Heroes is providing us the icing on the cake–the last bit of money that we need to officially establish this endowment. So without you, all this wouldn’t be possible. This is the completion of a dream that you all are contributing to, and we’re going to make sure that it turns into a legacy with a lasting impact on educators–starting here in Arizona, and then at some point nationwide, so these dollars are going to go directly towards helping us establish this fund this year.
Then we can start putting ourselves in a position to start giving out actual grants from this fund within the next two years. We don’t achieve that first big step of establishing this fund without the support from Homes for Heroes.
Jay: That’s awesome, and Laura and I are so happy to be part of that with you.
Lloyd: We’re glad and we really appreciate both you and Homes for Heroes–you and your family specifically. You are angels with your collaboration and partnership with us. You even came out and helped pull up carpet off the floor. But you did it with a smile on your face. You’re the type of people that show up, and you really understand how important it is to show up for us. The word “thank you” doesn’t capture it enough, but you are immensely appreciated.
Laura: Thank you, for us it’s really important. I say us because my husband and I are on the team. It’s really important for us not to just write the check – it’s awesome to be able to deliver a check– but for us, it’s really important to also have some sweat equity in this. Because nothing shows appreciation and love more than actions. For us, it’s really important to get in there and roll up our sleeves and show that additional level of appreciation and love to our educators–letting them know that we really care about you guys. We’re gonna do this project and it doesn’t matter how long it takes and it doesn’t matter how much physical strength and sweat it’s gonna take. It was just a wonderful experience.
Jay: Laura that that is so in line with the Homes for Heroes team across the nation and the mission that we have of thanking every hero in the nation. That fits exactly, and those actions are important. Getting out there and getting involved is huge.
So Lloyd, you have a Million Dollar Teacher Project store and you got some swag and stuff there. That helps support all of these programs as well.
Lloyd: It does. A portion of everything we sell out of the store helps us put our programming on school campuses. So you can go and buy a pair of socks or a t-shirt. We’re working with a salsa company, so at some point we’re going to be offering salsa through our Teacher Tree Store. That is a great way to incorporate supporting teachers into your everyday life with some Million Dollar Teacher Project merchandise.
Jay: That’s awesome. You guys are truly a wonderful non-profit supporting our teachers in need. Everything that you guys are doing is making such a huge impact for our teachers. I know that the teachers that you guys are supporting–redoing their lounges and all these other things that you’re doing for them–I’m sure they’re so thankful for everything that you guys are doing. And Laura, getting out there and getting your hands dirty is such an impressive feat, and I’m sure the teachers enjoy that.
To the audience that’s joined us today, if you want to hear more about the great work that the Million Dollar Teacher Project is doing, you can go to their website. It’s listed in the video links. Then show us a little bit of love by giving us a “like” on this and sharing it. Most importantly, that spreads the word. Then leave us a comment. Tune in next time to hear about some other great nonprofits that the Homes for Heroes Foundation is partnering with to help heroes in dire need. Remember, we are here to say “thank you” to a hero, so take a second and thank a hero today. Guys, thanks for joining us today.
Homes for Heroes Foundation
Grants from the Homes for Heroes Foundation are made possible by the Homes for Heroes Circle of Giving and its network of real estate professionals who are committed to providing savings on home and mortgage buy, sell and refinance transactions for firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, military (active, reserves and veterans), healthcare professionals and teachers.
Please take a moment to learn more about the Homes for Heroes Foundation and the grants it provides nonprofit organizations who help heroes in need, or simply to make a donation.