The Fiesta Bowl’s Charities Wishes for Teachers program published its annual list of grant recipients last week. Among the 200 Arizona educators was one of Yuma’s very own.

Meagan Veraldi, physical education teacher at Sunrise Elementary School in District One, has applied for the grant for the last three years. When she received a phone call saying she’d been chosen out of 2,500 applicants, she was pleasantly surprised.

“I was totally dumbfounded,” Veraldi said.

Powered by DriveTime, the Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program donates $1 million to Arizona schools to benefit youth, sports and education. According to the initiative, this year’s distribution of $5,000 each to 200 educators will positively impact 138,447 students, 177 schools, 52 districts, and 40 cities.

With her award, Veraldi plans to add a smart board, pedometers and heart rate monitors to her classroom to enhance fitness for her 600 students. Aside from counting their steps, Veraldi said the new tools will show her students how their heartbeats fluctuate throughout the day as their activity peaks and wanes.

“Instead of reading about it in a book, they’ll be able to see how their heart rate is different after they’ve been running versus when they’re sitting (and) watching TV,” Veraldi said. “It’s going to help them establish healthy habits. If they start healthy habits now while they’re in elementary school, when they get to their 30s and 40s those habits will still be there.”

With the smart board, Veraldi will use modern technology to put a fun, visual spin on health and fitness on the hotter days that confine their workouts to indoors.

“It doesn’t have to seem like work,” Veraldi said. “Exercise can be fun and interactive, and this will show them that. If they see a celebrity doing it or other students their age doing it, then they’ll believe that they can do it, too.”

With the new tools, Veraldi hopes that her students will find greater enjoyment in being active and says she’s “extremely excited” to experience this with them.

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