Ahwatukee attorney Mark Breyer says he comes from a family of teachers.
His mother and both of his sisters are career educators.
He recalls watching his mother spend her meager salary on supplies for her classroom.
"I remember shopping with my mom at one of those teacher stores and seeing it packed with teachers, all spending their own money to buy supplies for their classroom," said Breyer, who specializes in personal-injury cases. "On the average, teachers spend $600 a year out of their own pocket."
Breyer and his wife, Alexis, who market themselves as Arizona's husband-and-wife law team, wanted to do something to help Ahwatukee-area teachers.
The couple were aware of school needs in Ahwatukee because six of their eight children are enrolled in public schools. Their two oldest, Zev, 15, and Kailey, 14, are at Desert Vista High School. Their next four, Tate, 12, Ariella, 9, Talia, 8, and Pierce, 7, attend a Kyrene district elementary.
Their youngest, Karina, 4, and Cabe, 1, are waiting their turn to enter school. The eldest and youngest are exactly 14 years apart, both born on Jan. 8 at 2:29 a.m.
Last year, the couple tentatively started their Teacher Appreciation Program, for which nominations of area teachers can be made online.
Teachers are selected monthly and often are presented an oversize check for $250 to be used for school supplies. All elementary, middle, and high-school teachers are eligible.
This school year's first teacher honored is Cerritos Elementary fourth-grade teacher Michelle Mandola.
This year, in tandem with Peter Piper Pizza, winning teachers receive pizza for their classroom.
"This is for those teachers who go beyond the call of duty, who go that extra mile," said Mark Breyer.
Teacher recipients last year still rave about the experience, and the gift.
Centennial Middle School's sixth-grade math teacher Matt Penland was last year's first Breyer Teacher Appreciation recipient. The nine-year Kyrene teacher said he incorporates puzzles and games into his math curriculum to pique interest, and the cost of purchasing these items would normally come from his wallet.
Kyrene de la Esperanza teacher Lynn Price was another beneficiary. The 10-year Kyrene teacher was surprised during a staff meeting.
"We were all assembled in the library and, suddenly, Mark Breyer appeared carrying a very large check along with a beautiful plaque to display in my classroom," said Price, a former kindergarten teacher instructing second grade this year. "I was so surprised and excited.
"Teachers are so rarely recognized for their dedication and hard work. The Breyers are a couple who give back and do so generously. They have a deep love for their own children as well as the community at large."
Other teachers receiving the $250 gift certificate and plaque from Breyer Law Offices, P.C. were coach Rachel Proudfoot of Desert Vista, who was surprised during an all-school pep rally; Gayle Rapier, now retired from Esperanza; and Erica Encinas, of Desert Vista.
For the Breyers, the experiment has proved to be even better than they'd dreamed.
"It's been very fun, a lot more than we thought," Mark Breyer said. "We've been in discussion with other lawyers to let them know how great this has been, and I wouldn't be surprised to see this take off. And let's face it, lawyers can use any good PR they can get."
To nominate a teacher, go to http://www.breyerlaw.com/lawyers-for-teachers.html or to any Peter Piper Pizza, including Ahwatukee's at 4940 E. Ray Road.
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