A local husband and wife law team started a program that will award one teacher a $250 gift card each month to help pay for classroom supplies that would normally come out of their own pocket.

Mark and Alexis Breyer, of Breyer Law Offices in Ahwatukee Foothills, recently selected Kyrene Centennial Middle School math teacher Matt Penland to be the first recipient of the Teacher Appreciation Program.

They will present him the gift card and the plaque at a school assembly this week.

The goal of the program, the Breyers said, is to show their thanks and support for all that teachers do in the community.

Their family especially knows how important teachers can be, with seven children in local public schools and eight in total.

"We see teachers are lacking for school supplies and this was a nice way to recognize teachers during the year," Alexis Breyer said. "This teacher in particular won because he had the most votes and most great things said about him."

The contest is ongoing and they will select a winner every month. Votes and nominations are cast on the Breyer's website, www.breyerlaw.com/lawyersforteachers.

Penland came to Centennial Middle School eight years ago after working as a radio DJ in Flagstaff for 10 years prior. He understands the importance of keeping the interest of his students and has begun to interact more hands-on projects into his classroom.

"The kids are 11 years old and sometimes they don't want to just sit there and look at math problems all day," said Penland, who teaches three levels of sixth-grade math. "I've been adding projects over the years that involve math, but are more interactive than just problems on a sheet of paper."

One of those projects involves each of his students creating a game similar to a triangle peg board game. Penland said he purchases the blocks of wood with his own money every year.

"Gifts like this really do help out," he said. "Whatever projects you want to do in the classroom are usually going to come out of your own pocket. But they're important because they keep the kids interested."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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