Tarwater teacher gives her $5K prize to her school - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Tarwater teacher gives her $5K prize to her school

November 11th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Tarwater teacher gives her $5K prize to her school

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Tarwater Elementary School teacher Sophia Limjoco said it didn’t take her long to figure out how she wanted to spend a $5,000 check she had been given.

“I knew immediately,” the second-grade teacher said. “I did go home and let my family know. And I said, ‘this is what I’m planning on doing. What do you guys think?’ And they said, ‘it’s your money. We think it’s a great idea.’”

The nonprofit Honored had awarded Limjoco the check for $5,000. The group is dedicated to keeping great teachers in the classroom and inspiring a new generation of talent to pursue teaching.

Limjoco had been nominated by the mother of one of her former students. There were no restrictions on the money. She could have paid off bills, took a vacation, bought herself and her family something nice.

Instead, she decided to give back to the school where she works.

“I had a student … I heard you got a lot of money.” Limjoco said. “He said, ‘are you gonna buy a new house?’ I’m not going to buy a house. ‘What are you gonna do with it?’ I said, I’m we’re gonna try and build us an outdoor garden, the one that we’ve been wanting.’”

She plans to use the money for an outdoor classroom at the school. When Chandler Unified School District Superintendent Frank Narducci heard of her generosity, he said he would ask the Governing Board to match the offer.

Limjoco said the look on that boy’s face after she said she would use the money to improve the school was all the thanks she needed.

“His face said it all,” she said. “I’m going to try not to cry, but that is why I teach. It’s not for the grades, yes, that’s important. But it’s that moment, that I think for that child specifically, he’ll remember that.

“You give back. And hopefully, he’s going to remember that someone really cares about his future, you know, not just his parents and not just himself but there are other people who are invested.”

The space where Limjoco plans to construct an outdoor classroom is a bit of an eyesore on campus. It had been a habitat for a desert tortoise that parents had built years ago. The tortoise was moved, and the enclosure became neglected. It’s now overrun with weeds.

Limjoco asked if she could use it for planting and composting. She began to introduce those concepts to her students, who were amazed that the tiny seed in her fingers could transform into a large pumpkin.

The additional money that the district would contribute has helped other teachers get involved in the project, Limjoco said.

“That extra money helped the staff get excited and people that really weren’t interested, now they’re saying, ‘Well, what about this?’ And you know, ‘what I’ve always wanted to do is this.’ And it’s kind of spurred on more collaboration between the staff and outside organizations. And so it’s kind of broadened the participation to support a sustainable garden.”

Limjoco said it’s important for students to know where their food and air comes from, so that they can consider the long-term implications of protecting that as they get older.

Chandler’s roots as a farming community are deep, but also mostly in the past. Many of today’s students don’t even realize that Tarwater sits on what once was a dairy farm.

And they have a lot to learn before they’re ready to plant seeds.

“These kids, they’re pulling up weeds and they’re going, ‘what is this brown stuff?’ Limjoco said. “‘That’s dirt, it’s soil for plants to grow.