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Major League Baseball, People and Target are recognizing teachers in your community.

Teresa Durazo

Esperanza Elementary
Tucson, Ariz.

A first-generation American, Teresa Durazo graduated in the top 10 of her high school class. The first of her family to attend college, she graduated with honors from the University of Arizona, where she currently maintains a 4.0 GPA on her way to a Master's degree in school leadership. While still an undergrad at UA, she established a chapter of the Latina sorority, Lambda Theta Alpha. The fourth-grade teacher and Diamondbacks supporter was chosen by her principal to head the fourth grade math department, placed in charge of curriculum development, and she was picked to be Student Council leader as well. She's also the fourth grade team leader and is involved in organizing many of the school's extracurricular activities, like the talent show and Love of Reading week. Nominated as Teacher of the Month and highlighted in Bear Essential News for Kids, her concern for her students goes beyond the classroom. For example, she noticed one of her students was missing school and showed many signs of depression. She was able to get the student a psychological evaluation and additional help. Teresa has also spearheaded a fundraising committee at Esperanza that has raised thousands of dollars for the Title I school.
Why Teresa roots for the D-backs: "My family and I are passionate about baseball. The Arizona Diamondbacks symbolize family memories and family bonding; as a proud native of Tucson, Ariz., the Arizona Diamondbacks will always be my No. 1 team! Go D-backs!"

Samantha Poe

Montebello Elementary

After attending school with her mom on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, D-backs fan Samantha Poe knew she would teach. Samantha worked throughout high school and college as a summer counselor, earning her Master's degree. Trained in the Kagan Cooperative Learning approach, she applies research-based instruction strategies to improve academic achievement. Working in an especially diverse school population where 800 of 1,391 students are classified as English Language Learners and 29 languages are spoken, Samantha is committed to using the latest educational technologies, like an interactive SMART Board and electronic Classroom Performance System responders, to increase student engagement. She is the recipient of an Arizona Technology in Education Association grant that will provide iPads for her entire class. Samantha founded Montebello's Inspire to Aspire club to prepare young girls for high school and beyond. Inspire girls apply to highly selective area high schools, create résumés, and attend STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field trips and lectures. Samantha fundraises for the program and counsels the girls when they are struggling behaviorally or academically. For her dedication, she will receive the Excellence in Education Award, one of just 30 recipients out of 900 of her colleagues district-wide.
Why Samantha roots for the D-backs: "I was 'snake bitten' since my first Diamondbacks game with my dad during the inaugural season. The peanuts, nachos and watching them win the World Series kept me coming back! "

Elizabeth Zipp

Cordova Middle School

From the time she started school until this very moment, the one constant for Elizabeth Zipp was her studies. As an undergrad, she spent time studying in Cuba. There, she realized her desire to help children take control of their lives and not let an impoverished background determine their future. The experience still motivates her. For instance, Liz helped provide food and clothing for the family of two of her students, young Navajo sisters. While they're no longer her students, she still receives texts from them, catching her up with their accomplishments. Regardless of the challenges a day may bring, Liz is always in her classroom excited and ready for her students to arrive. Each quarter, the Diamondbacks fan helps her kids to grow and learn, helping her students to display this growth on their district benchmarks. Her consistency and passion pay huge dividends in her students' futures, and they love her for it. Liz started her teaching career through her acceptance into a national teaching program in the 2011-12 school year. Since then, she has been recognized for her commitment to her students and to her school.
Why Elizabeth roots for the D-backs: "I love the D-backs because, as a team, they embody the characteristics that I value and that I try to teach to my students, so that they grow as empowered young adults -- perseverance, collaboration and integrity!"

Kelly Ogles

Carrollton Junior High School
Carrollton, Ga.

Kelly Ogles joined the Navy, serving as its first female photographer assigned to a P-3 squadron. She returned to school to earn her bachelor's and is working on her Master's degrees, specifically focused on teaching at-risk and minority students. Kelly encourages her students to take advantage of their educational opportunities. Her own passion for space and science has led her to participate in several exclusive NASA teacher space camps as well as Northrup Grumman's Zero gravity Flight and Space Camp for Educators in Huntsville, Ala. She has also started Carrollton City's first Science Bowl team and offered its first rocketry class. Each year, the Atlanta fan makes a scrapbook for her eighth-grade class and presents it to the students when they graduate high school. Students from the high school routinely visit her to thank her for her inspiration. Her classroom is lined with college banners encouraging students to set a goal of getting a college education early in life and to not settle for anything less. Kelly has several nominations and awards for school including Teacher of the Month and Teacher of Year as well as receiving local and federal grants.
Why Kelly roots for the Braves: "I became a fan of the Atlanta Braves in 1991, the year they went from worst to first! Watching Justice, Bream, Pendleton, Olson and of course, Avery, Glavine and Smoltz bring the team the success it had in the '90s and beyond was a sight to behold! Even today with Freeman, Gattis, Heyward, Johnson and pitchers Kimbrel, Minor and Medlen (to name a few) the same teamwork, dedication and professionalism exist. There is a reason the Atlanta Braves are "America's Team," as they uphold all that is great about America! GO BRAVES."

Judy Stewart

Oak Grove Elementary
Acworth, Ga.

Judy Stewart has a passion for teaching, and she's always ready step up to the plate when asked. In 33 years, she's taught almost every grade and subject at Oak Grove Elementary, from second grade and computer class to EIP and ESOL. She's even taught the children of her students. She has changed positions, taken on new students and even given up her class in order to better provide for her students. Judy is no stranger to sacrifice. Her career in education began when she graduated from Kennesaw College in 1980. but the Judy's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at that time and Judy became her primary caretaker, often not sleeping for days. Unfortunately, her mom didn't live to see Judy marry her husband Scott and raise two children, both becoming teachers themselves. This Braves fan has the utmost respect of her peers. And from the gifts and visits of former students, to the dances and silly songs and hugs and tears of joy shared with grateful current students, on any day, her influence and inspiration can be witnessed in so many ways.
Why Judy roots for the Braves: "I was born a Georgia girl, raised a Braves fan."

Katherine Van Heidrich

KIPP Charlotte
Charlotte, N.C.

From the time she was a toddler, everyone knew Katherine Van Heidrich was something special. Even as her teachers said she had "complex learning disorders," she continued to excel. She graduated from high school and gained early admission to Brown University, committing to becoming a teacher. Katherine's devotion to teaching, volunteerism and community building was clear. Katherine graduated from Brown with a degree in Africana studies and religious studies and could have gone into any career specialty. She chose teaching because she wants to be on the "front line" and wanted to teach in an inner-city school so she could give back to the community that gave her so much. In her first year of teaching, Katherine became grade-level chair at her school and coached cross country. This Braves fan is pretty special outside of the classroom, too. In 2013, Katherine had heard that one of her former students was losing his home a few days before the start of school because it was due to be auctioned by a predatory lender. Katherine took to social networks and, in a single day, raised $12,000. She saved that family's home, bought school supplies and clothes, and reconnected their utilities.

Thomas Arentz

Sparrows Point High School

Thomas Arentz teaches English and Latin at Sparrows Point High School, but he does much more, making an impact on individual students, the school and the entire community. Over the course of his 16-year career, this Orioles fan has given students hope and determination. When one of them faces a rough day or tough life decision, he is there for guidance and support. Thomas has sponsored several extracurricular activities (Student Council, Future Educators of America) and sponsored the Class of 2008. Even when he goes home, his day is not finished. Thomas also teaches evening classes at the Community College of Baltimore County and is a dedicated and supportive fan of his children's athletic teams, having coached both of his sons' baseball and soccer teams for many years. Thomas is very involved with his church, having taught at both Sunday school and vacation bible school for many years. He is the council president for Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Rosedale, Md. It is Thomas' goal that all learn something through their interactions with him. He currently is studying Educational Leadership at Towson University, in the hopes of becoming an administrator and impacting student lives in this new way.
Why Thomas roots for the Orioles: "I have always loved the Orioles, from watching the games on TV to playing as an Oriole in Little League. Now, it is a great way for our family to spend time together."

Brian Raska

Minnieville Elementary School
Woodbridge, Va.

Orioles fan Brian Raska taught adapted PE to students with special needs for two years in Arlington, Va., and then moved to Minnieville Elementary in Woodbridge, Va., where he has been teaching elementary PE for the past three years. For the last two years, he has served as team leader for the school's specialists. This 2013 Dale City Teacher of the Year helps his students understand that playing sports isn't just about winning and losing, but about health and wellness throughout their lives. He's always coming up with creative ways to help his kids learn. For instance, he devised a game called Cholesterol Tag that teaches the students about heart health. He worked with other stakeholders at the school to increase students' physical activity and educate them on healthier food choices. Because of his efforts, Minnieville has twice earned the Gold Award -- the highest achievement -- in the Nutrition and Physical Activity Scorecard program, which rates school performance in nutrition and physical activity. Brian teaches not just because it is his job, but also because he wants to improve the lives of the students through improving their health.
Why Brian roots for the Orioles: "Born in Baltimore and raised in Maryland, the Orioles have always been a special part of my life, including summers at Camden Yards, idolizing and emulating the great Cal Ripken Jr., and sharing the love of the team with my daughter."

Catherine Thorson

Georgetown East Elementary School
Annapolis, Md.

An educator for 11 years, Dr. Catherine Thorson believes in the power of family -- and to her, everyone in the community is family. This avid runner and Orioles fan spent her career serving students living in poverty, and her sense of achievement comes from seeing her students rise above challenges to find success and helping them know that they are not bound by what others tell them their limits are. During her career, she procured funding for an outdoor classroom and a sports-and-academic after-school program helped her school get iPads and enlisted a local artist to construct an outdoor art piece. She did all this while ensuring quality academic instruction. Dr. Thorson is a high achiever. She holds two Master's degrees and an Ed.D. in education. She's been awarded her county's ESOL excellence award for her commitment to her English Language Learners and has earned teaching certificates in elementary education, biology and ESOL. Her most outstanding quality is her commitment to ensuring that all her students are happy, healthy and academically successful. She has a way of bringing out the best in everyone she meets.
Why Catherine roots for the Orioles: "I love supporting the Orioles because they are such great representatives of the things that are important to me: teamwork, effort and pride. The moments shared with family and friends in support of our home team are priceless!"

Shawn Ilinitch

Stetson School
Barre, Mass.

Shawn Ilinitch didn't take the usual path to teaching. After college, he worked in journalism and law enforcement, discovering his favorite part of both jobs was working with youth. The avid Red Sox fan decided the classroom was the place for him, so he got certified and began teaching English at Stetson School, a non-profit residential school serving students with complex behavior problems, where he has worked for six years. Shawn wants his students to understand how much in life they can accomplish. Last year, with $250 in seed money, Shawn started the fresh start organic garden with students. He personally maintained the garden, even though he had no prior gardening experience. Shawn could be seen watering the garden when the sun was rising and weeding on the weekends. Shawn has been nominated for the Massachusetts Association of Approved Private Schools Teacher of the Year award three times. In 2013, he was named Stetson School's Employee of the Year. Last year, his student council raised more than $1,000 to fund the building of a bathroom facility in Africa in partnership with Seven Hills Global Outreach by making and selling paracord bracelets.
Why Shawn roots for the Red Sox: "The Red Sox will always connect me to my father, the biggest Red Sox fan I knew, who died in 2000. Every time I watch a game, a part of me goes back to my 9-year-old self, recalling the first game I can remember watching at Fenway Park with my dad, witnessing Wade Boggs hit his first home run of the 1989 season against the Rangers."

Paul Richardson

Crawford Middle School
Lexington, Ky.

Playing baseball was one of the only things that kept Paul Richardson motivated as a kid in the inner city. He spent his time going to school and then to baseball practice, and then to the job he worked nights to support his mother. Paul went on to college, where he played baseball all four years, and graduated with a degree in social work. He then earned a Master's degree in learning behavior disorders. Paul has been teaching for seven years, and for the past three years, this Red Sox fan has worked at Crawford Middle School. Most recently, he has worked as a math special education teacher (though he has taught nearly every subject in every grade from first to eighth). Paul has consistently raised his students' test scores two to three grade levels each year. He coaches the Crawford Middle School math and academic teams and has also coached baseball and football teams of kids of various ages. Paul is a great role model and father figure for many of his students. He is living proof that it is possible to follow your dreams and that nothing can hold one back.
Why Paul roots for the Red Sox: "Though I may be miles away today, my roots were firmly planted in Boston at birth, and my heart has always been full of Red Sox Nation pride!"

Annette Wylie

Norrback Avenue School
Worcester, Mass.

Annette Wylie is caring, kind and professional and a sweet person. Her goal is to "raise good citizens," and everything she does with her class is dedicated to that goal. She is a wonderful role model to her students, their families and her fellow teachers. A teacher for 25 years, Annette understands that the many demands placed upon her are for the benefit of the children, and it's clear they're always her first priority. Her positive spirit inspires her students, who in turn positively affect the entire school. She loves the children as though they were her own, affectionately calling them her "ladybugs." Raised in Puerto Rico, Annette championed a dual-language Spanish immersion program at Norrback Avenue School. This die-hard Red Sox fan has helped hundreds of children develop a passion for other cultures and language. The program was unexpectedly eliminated from the school this year, but Annette has shown great leadership to the families and students affected by the school district's decision.
Why Annette roots for the Red Sox: "The Red Sox are my favorite team because they're the hometown team and the favorite of my teenage daughter and my dad, which gives us a great conversation topic!"

Colleen Antas

Schurz High School

Colleen Antas is a Chicago public high school teacher who has translated her experience as an athlete and coach on the field into a teaching career dedicated to turning around the lives of challenged students. She draws upon her experience as a college player and PURPLE peer mentor on the women's varsity soccer team at Northwestern University and believes that sports can engage students not only physically, but academically. She spearheads the OneGoal program at Schurz High School and works hard to create a positive, college-bound culture within the school, leading her students to graduate from college at radically higher rates than their peers. The Cubs fan graduated from Northwestern University magna cum laude, as a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, and as a recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship of the Year award. She is a special education and Spanish teacher as well as a program director for OneGoal. She also coaches the varsity girls' soccer team and led her team to receive the honor of being the first Chicago public schools girl's soccer team to play at Toyota Park after a Chicago Fire MLS game. She is a Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports team lead and is the co-chair of Student Council, in charge of school blood drives, school dances and charity events. Colleen motivates her students to be the best they can be on the field, in the classroom and in the community. She has a special focus on reaching Hispanic students, many of whom will be the first generation in their families to attend college.
Why Colleen roots for the Cubs: "Growing up in the Chicagoland area, I was a Chicago Cubs fan for many reasons including the family atmosphere that Wrigley Field offers, my involvement as an athlete at Northwestern, where we were involved in events at Wrigley Field including NU Day at Cubs' games, and the fact that I live today in the Wrigleyville area. Go Cubs!"

Christopher Della Valle

Cheyenne High School
North Las Vegas, Nev.

Christopher Della Valle graduated from Cheyenne High School in 1999 and returned to teach there after earning his college degree. Chris has the genetic disorder dwarfism and has never let that stop him from accomplishing anything. Chris is actively involved in the Cheyenne community, and you will often find him donating his time announcing sporting events. Football, softball, basketball and soccer fans have all enjoyed his entertaining calls. His sense of humor and zeal make this Cubs fan a great educator and person. Chris is a co-teacher in mathematics at Cheyenne and exemplifies what it means to teach collaboratively. He is a role model for other special education teachers at the school. In addition to being a stellar classroom teacher, Chris is the teacher of record for many students that are assigned to his special education caseload. He helps these students navigate high school and become contributing members of the community. Beyond the classroom, he is a role model to students and his peers alike. Everyone can see that a disability does not have to prevent you from doing anything in life, and both students and teachers respect and admire that.
Why Christopher roots for the Cubs: "Being born on the North Side of Chicago, I've had love for underdogs engrained into my DNA."

Regina Kinasz

St. Emily
Mount Prospect, Ill.

Regina Kinasz graduated from Loyola University in 1980 with a B.S. in education. She began teaching seventh- and eighth-grade math and science at Our Lady of Victory School. From 1985-2004, she raised five children but continued volunteering by teaching after school programs, coaching and fundraising. She returned to the professional setting in 2004 as a part-time math teacher at St. Emily Elementary School. Her success was so impactful that she was immediately offered a full-time position, where has been teaching ever since. Regina began the "accelerated algebra" class where record numbers of students were placed into advanced math classes as freshmen in high school. Regina's dedication to the school contributed to St. Emily receiving the National Blue Ribbon award in 2011 for the first time in its history. Her seventh-grade mathematics standardized test scores are 36 percent higher than the national average, ranking in the top 15 percent. In 2014, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Archdiocese of Chicago, and in 2011, the Shining Star Award from the Village of Mt. Prospect. Regina formed the St. Emily Scholastic Bowl team, and the Cubs fan is even responsible for obtaining new uniforms for the school's athletic teams.
Why Regina roots for the Cubs: "Following the tradition set by my dad and brother, I grew up watching the Cubs every day, including my favorites such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Glenn Beckert, listening to the "Hey, hey" of Jack Brickhouse, and attending Ladies Day games with my family at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field."

Garrett Lim

Walnut High School
Walnut, Calif.

As a student at UCLA, Garrett Lim met teachers who changed his thinking about education. They encouraged him to learn, not just study. Garrett became a chemist, but later followed his passion to teaching chemistry, which is what he's been doing for the last eight years. He frequently relates his experiences in the chemistry industry to the classroom to help his students better understand chemistry's practical uses. He teaches a variety of levels of the subject, including honors, international baccalaureate and advanced placement. Ninety-eight percent of his AP students pass; because of performance such as that, Garrett received the 2013 University of Chicago Outstanding Educator Award. His dedication to his students is unmatched. This White Sox fan is the teacher adviser for Walnut High School's Environmental Care Global Awareness (ECGA) Club and he has won many other distinctions, including the George Hauge Memorial Travel Award, Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction and Science Division Teacher of the year. Garrett is also a musician who has played in several concerts benefitting the Red Cross and Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
Why Garrett roots for the White Sox: "When I started watching baseball in the early 1990s, something drew me to Frank Thomas and how he approached the art of hitting, so much so that he became my favorite player. And since he played for the White Sox, the White Sox became my favorite team. I have been rooting for them since!"

Brenda Mendoza

Greenman Elementary School
Aurora, Ill.

Brenda Mendoza understands the difficulties faced by English Language Learners (ELL) because she was once one herself. This dedicated mother and teacher struggled to learn the language, but not only did she persevere, she also joined the gifted program. Brenda eventually earned a B.A. and two M.A.s, one in instruction with an ELL/bilingual emphasis and another in leadership. Once at Greenman Elementary School, Brenda, who has 11 years of experience teaching, created a program designed to get parents involved in the learning process. Brenda was nominated for the 2011 Kane County Teacher of the Year Award and won the Distinguished Educator Award in 2011. She has trained hundreds of teachers and helped implement parental programs all across Illinois. She mentors new teachers and Greenman parents, all while running her own classroom. If that weren't enough, in conjunction with her PBIS team, Brenda also helped establish an effective school-wide behavior management plan that has increased positive student behavior and has decreased negative student referrals.
Why Brenda roots for the White Sox: "I was born on the south side of Chicago; my roots, my history, my identity started there. This is why I'm a Sox fan, because the team represents not only my past but also my present, my future and my heritage!"

Sean Monahan

St. Juliana School

Raised in the shadow of Chicago's steel mills, Sean Monahan is a lifelong White Sox fan who saw his first game at Comiskey Park with his grandparents in 1974. After his wife Julie gave birth to their two children, Sean realized that education was his calling, so he enrolled at Northeastern Illinois University to become a teacher. After graduating with honors, Sean joined the Chicago public schools as an early intervention specialist. Working with small groups and individual students, he helped struggling students reach grade level in reading. In 2013, he joined St. Juliana School on Chicago's northwest side, and reinvigorated the language arts curriculum with novel study and an intense focus on writing. From facilitating scavenger hunts and model-building as tools to enhance students' understanding of classic literary fiction, to the creation of websites that host students' own short stories, Sean is an innovative teacher who figures out each child's strengths and uses them to help the child succeed, not just in the classroom but in life as well. In his spare time, he coaches two youth sports and also writes grants to secure additional resources for his school.
Why Sean roots for the White Sox: "I love the Sox because I love my dad, and the Sox were his team. One of my favorite memories of he and I together was sitting through a brutally cold early-season game and staying all nine innings keeping score together. Today, I get to take my son and daughter to games, and teach them to keep score -- while watching my dad's Sox, my Sox, our Sox."

Rachel Blanks

Wogaman 5-8 School
Dayton, Ohio

Rachel Blanks attended college on several scholarships -- the National Coca Cola, Toyota and the Eddie Robinson Scholarship, to name a few -- graduating with a bachelor's in business and a Master's in educational leadership. She is passionate about empowering youth to be successful. She received a $10,000 grant for her bakery business, and after gathering other young entrepreneurs in her network, designed a Young Entrepreneurs program to teach basic business principles helping kids develop their own small businesses in a micro-society setting. She has organized speakers ranging from health food experts to a federal judge and collected over $1,000 in grants for Place Based curriculum. Rachel established the fitness and nutrition club for the 21st century and was recognized as the "educator working for you" by the local news. She was Employee of the Year for the entire state of Florida in 2011. Rachel was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and hospitalized for an extensive stay. But she called her students every day, helping with work and making sure they didn't miss a beat! This Reds fan sees every student as a blank canvas that, with hard work and dedication, can become a priceless work of art.
Why Rachel roots for the Reds: "The Reds have been a part of life since I was 2 years old. Their steady presence in the community and the schools proved to me that they truly value the fans. I'm a fan of the Reds because they are a fan of our community!"

Zach Kelley

White Lick Elementary
Brownsburg, Ind.

Zach Kelley is the physical-eduction teacher at White Lick Elementary in Brownsburg, Ind., home of Major Leaguers Drew Storen and Lance Lynn. He has built an amazing program called Juggling Masters, now in its 13th year. The program teaches kids to juggle everything from scarves to glow-in-the-dark clubs, but it also incorporates lots of other fitness equipment, including unicycles, stilts, fun wheels and much more. It has become immensely popular in Brownsburg. This year, more than 160 third, fourth and fifth graders were enrolled in the program, and it continues to grow. The program does a lot for the participating athlete's self-esteem. Students get the chance to perform with about 30 classmates before an Indiana Pacers game. A testament to the program's success is the number of kids who come back to the main performance. Lots of alumni make it back to watch kids, and the line to talk to Zach after the show is always a long one. Zach has a family of his own and has also coached the high school golf team, but he still makes time to continue the program and he doesn't turn anyone away who wants to participate.
Why Zach roots for the Reds: "I have always cheered for the teams that are closest to my hometown of Brownsburg. Indianapolis has a Minor League baseball team, but I enjoy cheering on the Reds as a team that is close to my home."

Jean McPherron

Provo High School
Provo, Utah

Jean McPherron is an English and history teacher who wants to make a difference in the lives of her students. She enjoys introducing students to great literature and historical events, mentoring budding novelists and advocating for first-generation high school graduates. Jean received a Master's degree in education certifying her to teach ESL, reading, and gifted and talented students. She was among the first six teachers in Utah to become National Board Certified. She has been a literacy coach, a district curriculum developer and a state assessment writer. She earned a doctorate in education, completing her dissertation on adolescent student writing. Jean is an advocate for students. One student would not have graduated without her after-school tutoring and interventions with the administration. Another student, new to the country, received emotional support and language-learning strategies that allowed him to achieve in a gifted program. Jean is an author who writes with her students, showing them that they, too, can complete a novel during the National Novel Writing Month challenge by following her example. Several students have since been published. The Reds fan reminds students to be proud of their accomplishments, quoting Pete Rose, "If you can do it, it ain't bragging."

Michael Hayes

Moeller High School

Michael Hayes is a baseball fanatic! He not only teaches high school English to all 10th-grade students with disabilities, but he also coaches one of the top baseball programs in the country. He lives and breathes education, whether it happens in the classroom or on baseball diamond. Michael began teaching in the inner city to underprivileged eighth graders. He then took an opportunity to teach and coach at Moeller High School (home to alumni such as Barry Larkin, Ken Griffey Jr. and Buddy Bell). There, he coached the team to back-to-back state titles. Michael has helped many young men earn college scholarships, both academic and athletic. He's served as a leader on various service trips, helping young students give back to their community while also gaining perspective on life. He has helped students restore run-down parts of Cincinnati, work at homeless shelters and give underprivileged youths a special Christmas as part of the school's Christmas-on-Campus initiative. Michael has earned multiple awards from his school and community for his dedication to service and commitment in terms of bettering the city of Cincinnati.
Why Michael roots for the Indians: "Born and raised in Cleveland, being a Tribe fan is all I've ever known, as I still have bricks from old Municipal Stadium and cherished memories of the dominant '90s teams at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario! #ROLLTRIBE!!!"

Wendi Pillars

Virginia Cross Elementary School
Siler City, N.C.

Wendi Pillars, ("Ms. Wendi"), a teacher for 17 years, has taught children in the Czech Republic, England, Nepal and the United States; she was also an instructor in the U.S. Army. Today, she teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) at Virginia Cross Elementary. Wendi has written articles about educational neuroscience and best practices, which have been published in newspapers, journals and educational blogs. She is currently writing her first educational book. She leads webinars on teacher leadership and global classroom practices, presents at conferences and is a visual notetaker for other conference speakers. She was recently honored as Teacher of the Week by a local TV station. Wendi created a student service group that raised funds for a school in Nepal. Last school year, she spent time in Nepal, simultaneously developing leadership skills in its low socioeconomic student base and sharing instructional practices. Wendi is the lead ESL teacher at Virginia Cross Elementary, serving as a liaison between teachers and its central office staff. She has led the student spelling bee for the last few years, is deeply involved in global education -- her kids call her the "World Traveler" -- and she serves on the lighthouse team, which teaches kids about the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People." Finally, this Indians fan has coached her son's Little League team!
Why Wendi roots for the Indians: "Thanks to summertime games at Municipal Stadium or on TV at home in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio, I've been a lifelong Indians fan (even my son's only live MLB game has been in Cleveland). I've taught quite a few folks in faraway places about the "only real MLB team," and no matter where I've lived, like my dad, I've always held out hope for the Tribe's next World Series win."

Jacqui Spetrino

Rice Elementary School
Mentor, Ohio

Jacqui is a single mother of two that struggled through college working full time to raise her children and pay for school. She is a strong advocate for children, and she passes her love of art to every child she teaches. In a short time, she's accomplished so much: She teaches the lessons she does with the children at school to residents of a nearby nursing home. She has her elementary school students decorate boxes for pizza night in tandem with a community pizzeria. Jacqui leads students in creating pinwheels for Pinwheels for Peace and leads art show nights at the nearby mall. Jacqui teaches the students in traditional and new media, instructing the children about how to use digital devices in their art. Jacqui is being nominated for Teacher of the Year in Mentor, Ohio. Jacqui has an admirable commitment to art and children.
Why Jacqui roots for the Indians: "I was born and raised a Tribe fan and will always be one because that's the Cleveland way."

Cheryl Beckwith

Bill Roberts

Cheryl Beckwith is the kind of teacher you hope your child has at least once. After more than 40 years teaching, you could say she has inspired an entire generation. Cheryl makes learning joyful. She saw a need for history books written at an elementary-school level, so she wrote a short biography of a historical Colorado figure, geared to the interests and reading level of her third- and fourth-grade students. In 2010, The Today Show hosted a contest for elementary school classes to win a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As part of it, students chose to do a service project. To support a classmate recovering from cancer, the class baked dog biscuits which were sold to raise money for service dogs for other kids with cancer. The class won, and Cheryl deserves a lot of the credit. She is known for her wacky wardrobe, with an outfit for every occasion. She wears scuba gear to "dive into learning." She dresses like an old-fashioned schoolmarm when teaching history. This Rockies fan's students understand that she puts a lot of effort into their education and that they should put the same effort into it.
Why Cheryl roots for the Rockies: "I am a native Coloradoan who grew up watching the Denver Bears and then fell in love with our own Colorado Rockies who stand a mile above the rest. Go ROCKIES!!!"

Mark Parmet

Denver Jewish Day School

Mark Parmet has taught science, English and literature, but his true passion is math. He's most proud to hear, "Mr. P, I used to hate math before I had you; now it's my favorite subject. You make it fun and exciting." Mark worked in sales and as an IT recruiter before becoming a paraprofessional, assisting students with learning difficulties. After a year, he knew he wanted to teach for the rest of his life. Mark inspires trust and confidence in students, interested in helping both the most talented and the less able to achieve their potential. After a year as a math teacher, he was promoted to head of the math department, developing and implementing the middle school curriculum that turned around the struggling math program. Helping kids to realize their potential is such a passion of his, he plans to open a charter school for kids with learning disabilities. As the Rockies fan has said, "I made incredibly good money before, but I found that something was missing in my life. My years of being in the classroom have been the most rewarding." When asked to submit his picture, he sent one with the whole class.
Why Mark roots for the Rockies: "I moved to Colorado 15 years ago, and I've always lived within 10 minutes of Coors Field. Whether watching at the stadium or on my deck, the Rockies have become a summer tradition. By far my favorite Colorado sports team!"

Cherese Smith

Ozark Junior High School
Ozark, Ark.

Cherese Smith grew up in rural Arkansas. She was the first of her family to attend college. Despite all of the obstacles, Cherese worked her way through school, earning her Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master's degree from the University of Arkansas. Cherese could have taught anywhere, but she chose to come back to where she had grown up. Cherese has won over $40,000 worth of grants for her school and class. Today, her classroom is a model 21st century classroom, filled with technology. She has attended a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks seminar and was chosen for a Monticello-Stratford History fellowship and a Horace Mann Lincoln fellowship. In 2014, she was chosen as the Arkansas history teacher of the year. In Ozark, 60 percent of the school population receives free or reduced-cost lunch. This Rockies fan serves as a living example for her students and adults in her community that if you work hard, you can succeed at anything. Attend any school event and you'll hear her name called out, followed by hugs and lengthy conversations. "Mrs. Smith" is always talking about her next lessons and the ways that she can make her teaching better.
Why Cherese roots for the Rockies: "I am a Colorado Rockies fan because every time my young son sits in those purple seats, I know previous generations in my family are smiling!"

Amie Adamkiewicz

Summit Academy North Middle School
Romulus, Mich.

Amie Adamkiewicz has been a teacher for the past eight years, six of which have been at her current school, Summit Academy North Middle School. She is a skilled leader, enjoys trusted student relationships and is a wonderful mentor to others in the building. She is very caring and refers to her students as her "work kids." Amie took over the National Junior Honor Society at the school, and through the organization has taken students to Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago. She also has increased the MEAP test scores for social studies to third in the state. Each Christmas, Amie "adopts" several families in need and raises money so that they're able to have gifts, food and clothing during the holiday season. She has helped more than 50 families in the past four years. This past Christmas, she raised more than $7,000 to help 15 families. Amie balances her own little family (including a 5-year-old and a 10-month-old), making sure her own kids do well in school, with her job teaching middle school-aged students. She is a wonderful mother and teacher and she works very hard at both.
Why Amie roots for the Tigers: "I love the Detroit Tigers because I fell in love with the magic and traditions they continually demonstrate, which is something that I am now getting my own children to be a part of."

Murcy Jones

Marion Law Academy School

Murcy Jones has given birth to three children, but she has raised 10-plus and taken in multiple families over the last 20 years. She has cared for and contributed to the lives of everyone she has met. She worked for the Detroit Police Department as an identification technician for over 10 years before becoming a Detroit school teacher in 2004. She went to school in the day and worked the midnight shift to support her family. She now possesses two Master's degrees; one in adult education and as a reading specialist. Murcy tutors inner-city students in her spare time and hopes to open an educational recreation facility. Murcy is in the top 1 percent of all Detroit Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) teachers in reading last year and math this year. She has raised student test scores by 68 percent, putting her in the top three in the EAA district. Murcy created a wax museum where students learned and recited the biographies of famous black history figures, raising $800 for a class field trip. In addition, she has been honored by the EAA chancellor John Covington by coming over to Marion Law Academy to witness the student's effort. Her passion for education has inspired two of her students to enter into the teaching arena. Other good deeds include, but are not limited to, teaching free math classes to local college students and friends, and volunteering to teach Sunday school at her congregation called Sunset Church of Christ.
Why Murcy roots for the Tigers: "In one sentence, I would have to say: I love the Detroit Tigers because of their tenacity that embodies the spirit of Detroit, and just like their city -- THEY NEVER QUIT!!"

Michael Sinclair

Kalamazoo Area Math & Science
Kalamazoo, Mich.

For the last 26 years, Michael Sinclair has taught physics, calculus, geology and astronomy at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC). Michael has earned many awards: he was a 2013 Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher award recipient and the 2006 Michigan High School Science Teacher of the Year. He has been recognized 50 times with the Kalamazoo County Excellence in Education's Significant Educator Award over the past 24 years. On the first day of class, students left in tears because of how hard he promised the class would be. On the last day, they left in tears because of his amazing teaching. Through the course of one's school career, it seems there are few teachers who truly care about what they are teaching and those they're teaching it to. Michael has so much passion for his job. His energy is contagious and students learn better in his classroom than anywhere else. He sees the scope of his work and how it can affect the lives of our future leaders. Michael deserves this honor.
Why Michael roots for the Tigers: "I have always been a Detroit Tigers fan; first through my dad -- who grew up religiously following the Tigers in the 1940s -- and then on my own (especially after their stunning 1984 World Series championship)."

Marsha Bromley

Academic Career Center
Corpus Christi, Texas

After her divorce and her sons left home, Marsha Bromley went back to school and earned her B.S. in math. She chose to work at Academic Career Center because she wanted to help at-risk students. Marsha has helped hundreds of students accomplish something they thought impossible. Many of her students have been lost in math class for years and have been told they will never graduate. Marsha inspires them, and they know that even through the tough times, she is there to help and encourage. After 17 years, she is still there, providing everything students need to pass their end-of-course tests and finally receive a high school diploma. ACC only accepts highly at-risk students, so most of them come with baggage, such as pregnancy or children at home, chronic illness, incarcerated or deceased parents and drug and alcohol issues. Marsha provides a nurturing environment for all of these students, while still requiring the rigor in her classroom to make the students successful. Marsha took it upon herself to write a school database for record-keeping and scheduling that has become indispensible for her school to function under the new Texas guidelines. Without her hundreds of hours of work, her students and campus would be lost.
Why Marsha roots for the Astros: "Some of my favorite memories are watching the Astros with my dad, learning that once an Astros fan, always an Astros fan!"

Tamira Cole

James Madison High School

As a graduate of Austin Peay State University and Northwestern University, Tamira Cole embodies transformational teaching. She has lead six teams to high academic scores on the STAAR, End of Course, MAPS and ACT tests in preparation for leading their communities. She has served as a lead teacher, mentor, academic dean, instructional leader, advisor, technology leader and special-education dyslexia coach in five states. Tamira has implemented service learning projects where students have created newsletters, and established a literacy program with feeder schools in her district. The Astros supporter is energetic and passionate, motivating parents and teachers alike. Her impact is felt beyond the classroom as she advocates in state capitols for student equity. In 2009, Tamira was Miss Black Kentucky USA and traveled nationally to promote her platform Lights, Camera: YOUth in Action. She served as president of the board of a nonprofit for at-risk teens. Tamira has been a U.S. representative to Quebec City, QC, Canada; missionary to Nigeria and Honduras; a trained lobbyist in D.C.; she created domestic violence safety audits for children and parents in Tennessee government; lobbied for educational equality in the House and Senate; and is a commissioner for disabilities.
Why Tamira roots for the Astros: "The Houston Astros represent the fighter spirit in many of my favorite sports teams. Regardless of the challenges, the Astros continue to play hard!"

Carol Liberman

Robert M. Beren Academy

After more than 40 years, Carol Liberman is teaching her final year of middle-school English and history. She earned a Master's in education with Phi Beta Kappa honors and started her career working in the inner city, later moving between two Jewish private schools for the next forty years. Her accomplishments can only be measured by the success of her students, many of who have gone on to win national writing awards and attend Ivy League schools. She's won multiple Teacher of the Year honors, was asked to participate in a national teachers mentoring program and deserves to be nominated for sainthood for teaching middle school for so long. Carol hasn't had a storybook life and yet she never complains. When her husband had a heart attack, Carol raised two young kids on a teacher's salary. She's been a great inspiration, and for the small, tight Jewish community in Houston, her retirement will be a changing of the guard. She is a die-hard Astros fan with a picture of her son, daughter and Jose Cruz proudly displayed in her classroom. There couldn't be greater honor for her than to represent her Astros at the All-Star Game.
Why Carol roots for the Astros: "I am an Astros fan because of all of the amazing memories -- from Mike Scott's clinching no-hitter, to the great march through the playoffs in 2004 and 2005, to my kids' picture with Jose Cruz as Astro Buddies. I am also a fan because of the neverending hope that the Astros will one day bring home a World Series championship."

Megan Coone

William Southern Elementary School
Independence, Mo.

Megan Coone started her teaching career in the early 2000s at Thomas Hart Benton Elementary, a low-income school where she taught kindergarten and touched many children's lives. Megan is active in the district, participating in programs such as the Sunshine Committee, which collects gifts and flowers for families and staff who may be experiencing difficult times, and the social studies committee, which seeks new and fun ways to help kids learn. She's done all of this while working toward her Master's degree in education. Some of her students live in shelters and face other hardships. In 2012, a child in her class had just moved from a local shelter into an apartment. The family had very little, so Megan and her husband donated a children's bedroom set to them. Megan has received district awards for her classroom accomplishments since she began teaching. She has many talents, but what comes to mind first is love! She is someone who has such a love and passion for kids and learning.
Why Megan roots for the Royals: "I am a fan of the Kansas City Royals because I grew up watching them and still do every chance I get."

Elizabeth Rogers

Northern Voices School
Roseville, Minn.

As a high schooler in Kansas City, Mo., Elizabeth Rogers was required to fulfill a service project. She did so at St. Joseph's Institute for the Deaf, and in the process discovered a passion and chose a career path. After earning a Master's degree, she accepted a position at Northern Voices in Roseville, Minn., where she teaches students with hearing aids and cochlear implants how to listen and talk without sign language. She was selected to lead an initiative at Northern Voices, in collaboration with the St. Louis-based Moog Center for Deaf Education, that expands access to high-quality spoken language instruction via tele-intervention with the goal of helping children with hearing loss listen and talk. Elizabeth has in a very short time become an all-star at Northern Voices. When students get down or are having a tough day, Elizabeth lets them know how special they are. Recently, Elizabeth has started working with families who have learned their baby has hearing loss. She counsels families who are grieving about the diagnosis and helps them though the next steps. Elizabeth embodies what MLB All-Stars do, showing excellence on the field, in the classroom and leading their peers!
Why Elizabeth roots for the Royals: "Since moving to Kansas City in 2000 and putting on my first Royals shirt, I was hooked on the atmosphere, players and the love of the game that the team and the fans bring to the K."

Lindi Todd

Carthage Junior High School
Carthage, Mo.

Lindi Todd teaches English to both English and Spanish speakers at Carthage Junior High. As a first-year teacher, this Royals fan helped implement plans and programs to help Spanish-speaking students learn English by assisting them with all of their courses, not just English. When Lindi started at Carthage, the department had no real direction. Now, she has seen the English-speaking skills of countless students from Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador improve. Her principal and assistant principal depended on her to establish the benchmarks now being used for the ESL program at the junior high, middle and high schools. She has been acting as the unofficial department head/leader but is paid nothing beyond her base salary. Lindi volunteers as the drama club director and keeps records and score books at all of the school's volleyball and basketball games. Lindi has developed relationships with her students, their parents and her co-workers. Her students bring her gifts; their parents visit with her often as they work with her to create better lives for their children. Lindi has had the opportunity to move to other larger school districts but has chosen to remain in Carthage because she loves her students and the school.
Why Lindi roots for the Royals: "My mom was raised in Kansas City cheering for the Royals and brought my dad into the fold when they met. Therefore, I was born and nurtured into a lifelong love for Royals baseball!"

Erika Perrine

Apple Valley Unified School District
Apple Valley, Calif.

Erika Perrine's parents came to the United States as immigrants from Mexico. The first to attend college, Erika earned a Master's degree in education and then a PPS credential in school counseling. She began her career as a Spanish teacher but now works as a school counselor and teacher on assignment for the English learner program. Erika has developed classes for parents learning English in our district and has spent the last two years getting her school district the Seal of Biliteracy. Erika goes the extra mile for all the students in the school district. One family was having immigration problems and needed their children to finish the school year. Erika took the high school students into her home and is helping them while their parents work on their immigration paperwork back in their home country. She sponsors students who are unable to go to prom. Erika listens and gives helpful advice. She understands how to motivate the students who feel lost and lack support at home. Her heart is what makes Erika stand out.
Why Erika roots for the Angels: "I became an Angels fan the first time I saw Jim Abbott pitch for the Angels and quickly learned that they are a great team that really takes good care of their fans."

Blake Smith

Valley High School
Santa Ana, Calif.

Blake Smith began his career in education working as a maintenance man at a preschool for the blind. That's when this Angels fan realized his passion for working with kids with special needs. He earned his degree in child and adolescent studies and received credentials for working with special-needs students. In 2009, he joined Valley High School as a teacher for students with severe disabilities. Blake now holds a Master's degree in special education and is working toward a Ph.D. in education. Blake founded the Inclusive Club at Valley, which encourages students to develop meaningful relationships with each other. Fundraising pays for activities such as school dances (tux and dress rentals, tickets, transportation, hair and make-up), graduation and community-based instruction trips. He works to improve the lives of everyone around him and ensures students have the same opportunities as others around them. He constantly applies for grants and scholarships for his students.
Why Blake roots for the Angels: "Jim Abbott's quote best sums up why I am a lifelong Angels fan: "Some of you may know that my career statistics weren't that great. There were some incredible highlights and some agonizing low lights. The truth is, I won't go to the Hall of Fame. But if a career can be measured by special moments, lessons learned and a connection with people then I would stack mine up with anyone's. Maybe there is an obligation to share. To try and learn from the experiences life puts us through." -Jim Abbott"

Erin Woodward

Kern Valley High School
Lake Isabella, Calif.

Erin Woodward began teaching after working in banking for 10 years. She worked full-time and attended night classes for seven years to earn teaching degrees in special education and Spanish. She taught special education for 16 years at a middle school, then changed districts and taught high school Spanish. Erin has been voted Teacher of the Year in every district where she's worked. She sets up intervention sessions for student-athletes in her Spanish class before and after school, at lunch and even over the weekends at her house. She has monitored and encouraged several students, helping them graduate with honors and attend college. As adviser of the school's California Scholarship Federation chapter, she motivates her students to work thousands of hours of community service each year. Erin mentors teachers as a Beginning Teacher Support Provider and was recognized as an Outstanding Educator for her work as a Boy Scout merit badge counselor. Erin has won numerous grants to enhance her classroom and students' learning. She utilizes her sewing talents to create costumes for her students' annual productions as well as for the 19th century living history demonstrations she performs at schools and in the community.
Why Erin roots for the Angels: "I have followed the Angels for over 30 years, beginning when a family friend, Doug DeCinces, became their All-Star third baseman."

Isagani Celzo

School of Social Justice
Huntington Park, Calif.

Extreme poverty did not keep Isagani Celzo from fulfilling his dream of becoming a teacher. While working as janitor, he earned an academic scholarship and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in mathematics at age 20. Isagani, a National Board Certified math teacher, is an exceptional educator who cares passionately about his students and the community. He is a founding member of School of Social Justice where he currently teaches geometry and AP calculus. He is a catalyst to educational transformation in a neighborhood that struggles with poverty, drug use and crime. To bolster mathematics achievement, he analyzed student data and designed the Predictor Model, a statistical correlation which is instrumental in the school's higher CAHSEE passing rate. His students' 2013 state assessment scores ranked the Best CST Summative HS Math out of 71 LAUSD-ISIC high schools. Isagani's focus on closing the achievement gap and raising academic achievement for all of his students has had an extraordinarily positive impact on the school community. He also holds leadership roles as mentor teacher, data and intervention lead, teacher growth and development cycle lead, math PLC lead, and as an active member of the governing board.
Why Isagani roots for the Dodgers: "My students' love for baseball and my commitment to develop a connection with them encouraged me to become a Dodgers fan since I moved to Los Angeles in 2007."

Anthony Saavedra

San Pedro High School
San Pedro, Calif.

In 37 years of teaching, Tony Saavedra inspired his students to think like adults, never letting policy, low school funding or politics get in the way of his teaching. He started Doc's Rocks, a program with LAUSD, the Department of Cultural Arts and the International Documentary Association to promote project-based learning. It's been so successful, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation included him as a subject in a film about project-based curriculum. Tony produced a public health campaign to educate high school students about the risks of drinking, drugs and smoking. He's taught English literature and language skills to over 8,000 high school students, and 82 percent of them were accepted into university. One of his former students, Joe Buscaino, is currently on the L.A. City Council. Some other courses Tony has taught are world literature, creative writing, honors, ESL1-4, AP language composition and cinema studies. Travel around town with this Dodgers fan and more than 20 years later, former students stop to give him an update on their lives. He has also been a Disney Teacher of the Year finalist and the San Pedro Lady Booster Teacher of the Year for 2001.
Why Anthony roots for the Dodgers: "My very first memories as a child are of games at Dodger Stadium, and the thrill has never gone away!"

Jennifer Wilson

Rosary High School
Fullerton, Calif.

Jennifer Wilson started the American Sign Language program at Rosary High School, giving its students a third language option beside Spanish and French. The program continues to grow each year. When she was 6 years old, Jennifer, a hearing child, was placed in a class with many deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Rather than shy away, she learned the language and has carried it throughout her life. She interprets Sunday church service for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Jennifer graduated from California State University, Northridge, cum laude, with a B.A. in deaf studies in just three years. After one year of student-teaching at Burbank High School, she went on to start the program at Rosary High School. She also founded the American Sign Language club, an on-campus club run by students. Jennifer has brought awareness to deaf culture, choosing to shed positive light on a community that is often looked at with a negative stigma. As a young teacher, this Dodgers fan also gives the girls of Rosary High (an all-girls school) a younger voice to follow. The students trust Jennifer and go to her with their problems, both educational and personal.
Why Jennifer roots for the Dodgers: "I grew up minutes away from Blue Heaven on Earth, making the Dodgers my hometown team, and Dodger Stadium a place of many memories with family and friends."

Claudia Perez

Dr. Rolando Espinosa

Claudia Perez knows that being a teacher involves much more than planning and executing a lesson with the purpose of evaluating student progress at the end of the unit. It entails serving as an educator, a nurse, a counselor, a scientist, a friend, and in many instances, the only source of stability in a child's life. To successfully produce significant learning opportunities, Claudia has found teachers must play a variety of roles inside and outside the classroom. Her ultimate goals are to inspire and influence her students, holding high standards and expectations to empower them to accomplish things they did not think they were capable of, attempting to reach all students, no matter what. Claudia received the Rookie Teacher of the Year Award in 2007, Teacher of the Year Award in 2014 and the Amazing Panther Award. Claudia also received the SPOT Success Perpetual Award from Miami-Dade County public schools. Claudia has been married for 13 years and is a mother of three. She holds a bachelor's in business administration/management information systems and a Master's in curriculum and instruction. She will continue her education to obtain a specialist in educational leadership.
Why Claudia roots for the Marlins: "As a fan of my home team, the Miami Marlins, since their inaugural season, I enjoy attending the games and now passing this tradition to my children."

Keri Porter

Wingate Oaks Center
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Keri Porter walks through the door each morning as excited to see her students as if it were her first day. Keri shares her expertise and love of visual arts with medically fragile students and students with autism. She "raises the bar" every year using new methods, technology and curricular connections. This inspires staff and students alike to join her quest to find outlets for artistic expression. Although all of her students have significant disabilities, each get to create high-quality art projects. She helps non-verbal students to express themselves. Students with virtually no mobility create by directing others through the use of technology. Whatever modifications necessary - augmentative communication, physical assistance or adapted tools - are folded into lessons. Keri promotes civic responsibility through integrated art instruction. She started recycling efforts, inspiring the entire staff. There are now 20 projects school-wide, including pet adoption bandanas made from scrap fabric, adapting crayons for students with physical handicaps, recycling old tires, mosaic stones and creating decorated rain barrels from recycled drums. This Marlins fan has received many honors, grants and awards, including Broward County Visual Arts Teacher of the Year, Wingate Oaks Teacher of the Year and BAEA Teacher of the Year for Exceptional Students.
Why Keri roots for the Marlins: "As a native of South Florida, I have always loved the game of baseball, and when the Marlins came to town, I was thrilled that they would be my hometown team!"

David Voytek

North Grade Elementary
Lake Worth, Fla.

As a youth, David Voytek volunteered with the elderly. He loved to help people and had a flair for creating art. In high school, he designed and sewed a dress for a heavyset girl. She wore his design and felt like the most beautiful girl at the prom. This became the basis for a television program. He went on to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City where his gold-medal-winning designs were published in Brides Magazine. He went on to teach to continue to help others. David teaches in schools for disadvantaged children. His interest in reading took him from the third-grade chair to becoming a media specialist with an impact on the wider population of children throughout the entire school district. He earned his Master's degree in education with a perfect 4.0 GPA while working a 12-hour day. David organizes the annual trip to Washington, as well as fundraising activities like car washes, a garden club and painting hall murals throughout the school. The Marlins fan has produced award-winning student videos, telecast district-wide, that have earned thousands of dollars to benefit the school.
Why David roots for the Marlins: "I support the Miami Marlins because they are my Florida home team and are role models to many of my students who can see individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds working together to be the best in MLB, as well as being ardent supporters of education through the Miami Marlins education and arts programs."

Samuel Huber

Kennedy Elementary
Grafton, Wis.

Samuel Huber has taught physical education for nine years. His motto is, "walk what you talk." He founded the Eco Runner movement and is a spokesman for environmentalism and personal responsibility. He's been featured in publications including Runner's World, Fitness, Smucker's Naturally Powered By You and Newton Running's Hello Better campaign. He was UW-Green Bay's Outstanding Alumni in 2010 and holds B.A.'s in both education and environmental policy and planning. The Brewers fan leads students in an annual Eco Walk and coaches Grafton HS freshman golf and intramurals. He founded a district-wide geocaching program, combining science, gym and literacy. He is launching Kids Fit 52, partnering with local businesses, with a new activity each week to fit interests and abilities. With weekly goals, students are fitness ambassadors to their family and community. Individual focus on the whole student is what makes Mr. Huber successful. As gym teacher, Samuel sees each student in the school. Last year, when a second grader had behavioral issues, the gym was a place to expel energy. Mr. Huber developed a rapport with him, and the student became his "special helper," eagerly assisting in gym. The child's self-esteem, attention and academics all benefited positively.
Why Samuel roots for the Brewers: "I am a Brewers fan because of the defining characteristics that set them apart -- the voice of Uecker, racing sausages, Hank the dog, Miller Park, Bernie Brewer and a fan base with team and community spirit that just won't quit!"

Tracy Tate

Oconto Falls High School
Oconto Falls, Wis.

Tracy Tate attended UW-Stout, majored in business education and marketing, minored in business administration and specialized in human development. She later attended UW-Madison and earned her Master’s in educational leadership. She taught at Marion High School for one year before earning the job as the business education teacher at Oconto Falls High School where she has stayed for nine years. As soon as Tracy began teaching at OFHS, she became the Oconto Falls Future Business Leaders of America local chapter advisor. She has had students qualify for the FBLA National Leadership Conference for the last seven years and has also had three students serve as a Wisconsin state officer for a total of five years. Tracy is currently the head of the business department at OFHS. She is an outstanding teacher because she does everything in her power to motivate her students. While many teachers might give free days and don't care if their students are off task, this Brewers fan never gives a free day since she wants each of her students to excel in their high school and after high school careers. She focuses on things outside the classroom by teaching skills that will last them a lifetime.
Why Tracy roots for the Brewers: "I'm a Brewers fan because I absolutely love going to the games for the atmosphere, the fans and the Miller Park experience, but most of all ... Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez are AWESOME!"

Eric Vander Loop

Woodland Elementary
Appleton, Wis.

Eric Vander Loop and his wife Karen both teach at Woodland School. His parents are both hard-working, inspiring, honest and humble, and that describes Eric, too. His three passions are family, teaching and baseball. Above and beyond the core subjects, he gives his students the mentality that they can make a difference in the world, even in the fifth grade. Eric has a Master's in education and has been in teaching for 15 years. A Brewers fan, he has coached high school baseball for seven years. This summer, he will qualify to teach other teachers to re-certify and re-energize. Mr. VL started a River Studies Summer Fishing Program 15 years ago for youth in the district. He has raised funds every year so most of the materials are provided free of charge. The Unless program was started six years ago after hearing that a student's mother and Mr. VL's friend both had stage 4 lung cancer. The students asked Mr. VL what they could do to help. The Unless motto comes from Dr. Suess: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." Mr VL still leads "Unless" and has raised $86,000 to date!
Why Eric roots for the Brewers: "I am a Brewers fan because I was fortunate enough to grow up watching and listening to the magical Milwaukee teams of the 1980s. My dad and I would spend our summer days listening to Bob Uecker while we fished on Lake Winnebago. It is cool that my 5- and 8-year-old boys now do the same thing with me!"

Cindy Britain

Ronald McDonald House

After graduating from Union College with a bachelor's in education, Cindy Britain's career brought her to the Twin Cities, where she resides with her husband and two daughters. She has spent the last 16 years at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis, the only one with an accredited school. Families come from all over the world so that their children can receive treatment for illnesses that are sometimes terminal. Those kids often have siblings who need to stay in school. Cindy's caring teaching style benefits the children and their families who stay at the house. Her special gift is connecting with each student and her compassion shines in each relationship. Thanks to teachers like Cindy, it's comforting for those families to know their well children are in a safe, loving, compassionate school.
Why Cindy roots for the Twins: "I grew up with the Minnesota Twins. My favorite memories with my dad are going to the Twins games and watching Harmon Killebrew hit his famous home runs."

Neil Johnson

Shakopee High School
Shakopee, Minn.

With nearly four decades of teaching experience, high school calculus teacher and Minnesota Twins fan Neil Johnson is devoted to both math and sports. In fact, he continues to hold the title of Shakopee's only softball coach and has coached softball longer than any other coach in the state. He has also served as the math department chairman for 20 years, and in 2008, he started a pilot program that allowed calculus students to receive college credit from the University of Minnesota. Beyond the classroom, Neil was instrumental in building a softball complex, organizing community groups to help build fields, press boxes, dugouts and bleachers. He also created both the Shakopee Girls Basketball Association and Girls Softball Association. On and off the field, this teacher supports his students as well as his coworkers, often acting as a mentor to new math teachers. That's why it's no wonder that his students describe him as "the best math teacher I have ever had."
Why Neil roots for the Twins: "I have been a Twins fan since they came to Minnesota in the early '60s, when I would listen to them on the radio."

Mike Sommerness

Pequot Lakes High School
Pequot Lakes, Minn.

Mike Sommerness is a great inspiration to his students. The band and music teacher often takes time out of his day for students. He encourages them to do bigger and better things, but with a piece of advice: make sure you love it. When Mike came to Pequot Lakes High School, the band had been through three teachers in four years. Mike has now been there for 10 years and is a favorite teacher. He organizes band trips every four years, guaranteeing students a chance to experience the wider world of music. He works with the VFW and other organizations to get opportunities for the band to share their music with their neighbors. This 2013 local Teacher of the Year award winner is so beloved by his students that they've given him gifts, like autographed Chuck Taylors and a Major League gift card to help him get to Twins games. Mike's dedication to his students and creative teaching techniques make music fun and accessible. He makes it cool to be in band!
Why Mike roots for the Twins: "I love the Twins because they are a scrappy team that keeps on comin'!"

Renan Ebeid

Abraham Lincoln High School
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Renan Ebeid has a degree in physical education, specializing in sports medicine. She has two Master's degrees, one in education and one in administration. She was raised to always remember to give back to her community, and she does. She raised more than $7 million for the school to upgrade facilities. She designed a new fitness center to encourage students to live a healthier lifestyle. She created an academic program to help students meet scholarship criteria and classes to help guide students to careers after graduation. Renan is the life of Lincoln. She is like the students' mom away from home. They admire her and are always looking to her for advice. She always makes sure they have breakfast and reminds them of the importance of eating healthy. Renan has received a number of proclamations for her work at Lincoln from the borough president, local councilman and senator. She received the Educator of the Week award from the teacher's union. This Mets fan was recognized in the local newspaper as one of the top 40 successful women under the age of 40. She was named the Most Influential Staff Member of the Year by the Lincoln students and community.
Why Renan roots for the Mets: "I am a Mets fan because I grew up watching the Mets with my dad. He was a huge Mets fan. He was at the 1969 World Series, and we watched the 1986 World Series together!"

Emily Korn

Cloonan Middle School
Stamford, Conn.

When Emily Korn graduated college, she wanted to teach English, but there were no positions open. She started as a substitute and took the first position available - as a science teacher. Everyone knew her as a very creative and imaginative person, but she found she also had the analytical mindset needed to teach science and fell in love with the subject. Emily has a fellowship from the National Science Teachers Association. She has presented at the NSTA STEM Expo. She attended a space conference at Kennedy Space Center through the GE foundation and also presented at the College for Every Student. She is currently a finalist for Teacher of the Year in Stamford, Conn., and will be presenting at the NSTA STEM EXPO 2014. Emily was responsible for West Point sending Lego robotics engineers to her classroom to engage 21 students interested in engineering. Emily also arranged for astronaut Barbara Morgan to participate in a Skype interview to discuss opportunities at NASA and in space with her sixth-grade class. She is currently receiving her second Master's in special education and English. Her focus is literacy, learning to get students excited about reading.
Why Emily roots for the Mets: "I am a Mets fan because of my wonderful father and brothers."

Michael Soskil

Wallenpaupack South Elementary
Newfoundland, Pa.

Michael Soskil encourages students to develop skills they will need to succeed in the 21st century. Students learn to solve real problems in the community. Also, he facilitates global collaboration opportunities with students from around the world, bringing in experts to talk via Skype and setting up opportunities for teachers to learn from each other via social media. Michael has won the Presidential Award for Excellence in math and science teaching and was named a Keystone Technology Integrator by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. He has been selected to present at regional- and state-level conferences on problem-based learning, global collaboration, mathematics teaching and utilizing educational technology. Michael mentored a student-led public service campaign to increase donations to the local food pantry. On another occasion, his math students designed a 100-foot peace sign on the school's front lawn to advocate for peace in the community. Michael is co-host and co-founder of the weekly EdTech Chat 'n Chew podcast. He has served as adviser for low-achieving schools as a math curriculum expert. And this Mets fan has modeled exceptional sportsmanship. In 10 years as girl's varsity soccer head coach, he never received a single yellow or red card.
Why Michael roots for the Mets: "My lifelong love of the Mets was passed to me by my parents. Whether it was watching Game 1 of the 1986 World Series from the old subway platform outside of Shea Stadium, celebrating Darryl Strawberry's Rookie of the Year Award on Strawberry Sundae Day, or traveling to Spring Training in St. Petersburg with my father for my 10th birthday, many of my happiest memories growing up took place wearing a New York Mets shirt. I now strive to pass that passion to my own children with regular trips to Citi Field every summer."

Joseph Alvear

Fort Hamilton High School
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Joseph Alvear was born in Ecuador and came to the United States at an early age. For the last 17 years, he has taught high school English, teaching students about similes and metaphors, with a few life lessons thrown in for good measure. He is consistently one of the highest rated teachers in the school based on student surveys, as well as being a devoted family man and member of his community. Joseph has had a profound impact on the lives of countless students and inspired many to also become teachers. Outside of the classroom, Joseph has organized holiday field trips where students delivered donated toys for young children in low income areas. And every year, he organizes a senior citizens prom and invites local seniors to attend a prom at the school's gym. Beyond being an excellent English teacher and a huge Yankees fan, his dedication to his community, his family and his students only continues to grow.
Why Joseph roots for the Yankees: "Shortly after I arrived in the United States, my grandfather, a long time Yankees fan, gave me a team hat and a Reggie Bar. I was hooked immediately!"

Monica Callenbach

Manhattan New School
New York

Kindergarten teacher Monica Callenbach was born in Bogota, Colombia, and is fluent in Spanish, French and English. She is highly trained and hardworking, just like her favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees. She instills a love of art and culture in her students every day. In addition to classroom visits from museum educators, her kindergarten students have field trips to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, the Whitney Museum, the Rubin Museum and the Guggenheim Museum. Monica follows each museum visit with hands-on art activities to connect the children with what they've just learned. In her 12 years as an educator, Monica has learned many different ways to connect with students. She uses FaceTime, Skype and Twitter to collaborate with a school in Ontario, Canada, as well as with an Apache American Indian School in Arizona through a project called Kindergarten Around the World. She shares educational articles through her Tumblr blog and Twitter posts, as well as photos and videos of the students, bringing culture and education to her students every day of the week.
Why Monica roots for the Yankees: "I am a Yankees fan because I grew up watching the game with my grandmother and because of the excitement in New York when the Yankees are in the World Series, which is often!"

William Termine

Middle Village, N.Y.

Lifelong Yankees fan William Termine has been a member of the New York City Board of Education for 18 years. During that time, he has worked as a paraprofessional, classroom teacher, health teacher, physical-education teacher and part-time dean. Pursuing his passion for fitness, in 2005, William introduced a program called CHAMPS (Cooperative Healthy Motivated Positive Students) where he acted as coach, supervisor and facilitator. It has since flourished exponentially. William is a known face in the neighborhood where he grew up and still lives. Students see him on their way to church or the grocery store and in the hallway at school. He coaches and teaches fitness classes for kids, even creating friendly neighborhood competition by organizing games of flag football, soccer, basketball, hockey, girls soccer, girls basketball and co-ed softball. Children look forward to the games and the camaraderie he creates. William has helped children lose weight, create fitness goals and make healthier choices, and he believes that sports can teach us many lessons: how to handle life's challenges, reach for the stars, never give up, and most importantly, to respect yourself and others.
Why William roots for the Yankees: "The New York Yankees organization prides itself on honor and tradition. These are qualities I respect. This is why I am a Yankees fan!"

Nayo Brooks

Katherine Delmar Burkes
San Francisco

A compassionate, generous and creative spirit, Nayo Brooks is a fourth-grade teacher and Oakland A's fan with 15 years' experience being a role model for her students. She is known for going above and beyond for her students and will certainly stick her neck out for those who need a little extra help. Through her teaching she instills confidence and a love of learning in her students that will take them far. Nayo especially excels in teaching children how to write. She encourages connections between curriculum and creative arts like writing, visual art and media, helping students to draw on personal experience and connect with the lessons. She is an absolutely outstanding role model to many and has been described as "a gem of a human being."
Why Nayo roots for the A's: "My dad, being an avid sports fan, took me to many A's games growing up, instilling in me a love and appreciation for not only the game, but also the talented players of my hometown team, the Oakland A's!"

Keith Debro

Oakland Technical High School
Oakland, Calif.

Keith Debro is a special-education teacher and Oakland A's fan who chose to stay and teach in Oakland because he believes that all kids deserve a quality education, regardless of privilege. He has inspired many in his 25 years of teaching, and has developed one of the most inclusive programs at his high school: a mentoring program that runs both during and after school at two local elementary schools. Keith believes there's no better way to provide community service than mentoring future Oakland Tech students. He attends all PTSA meetings, acting as an advocate representing his students' voices, a gesture his students and their parents greatly appreciate. One parent said of Keith, "You saved my son." He is known for giving second chances, and even parents outside his classroom have come to him seeking advice and direction. Keith has been honored by Channel 4 for making a difference in his community, being recognized for going the extra mile and for taking the time to invest in the future of his own hometown, Oakland.
Why Keith roots for the A's: "My grandmother introduced me to baseball at age four, and 10 years later, I attended the very first game ever played by the A's in Oakland -- a 4-1 loss to Baltimore. That was April 17, 1968, and I've remained a fan ever since."

Allison Pruitt

Washington Elementary School
San Jose, Calif.

Oakland A's fan Allison Pruitt has taught kindergarten, first, second and third grades for a total of 11 years, and in that time has become Washington Elementary's most accomplished teacher. Of the students she teaches every day, 95 percent are on free and reduced-price lunch plans, and 75 percent are English Language Learners. Although the school is located in a crime-ridden neighborhood, Allison teaches students that a love of learning and hard work will make all of the difference in the world. As a devout reader, she inspires children to learn, collaborate and to be leaders. Parents love Allison too, because she is always available for extra meetings and help. As a grade-level representative and a school leader for nine years, she also takes good care of her colleagues. Allison has been instrumental in raising the academic standards at a school that was once the lowest performing. Beyond her amazing work at school, Allison is also an author. For three years, she developed a philosophy program for young students and wrote a chapter implementing philosophy in elementary schools. Allison is one of those special teachers that help children take pride in doing their best.
Why Allison roots for the A's: "I may live in the South Bay now, but I am an East Bay girl at heart. I grew up in the Hayward hills and attended Mills College in Oakland. I have been an A's fan since I can remember -- as a kid, I liked that the team started with the first letter of my name!)"

Garrett Lyons

Howard High School
Wilmington, Del.

A Jefferson Scholar and distinguished history major at the University of Virginia, Garrett Lyons had several job offers after graduation. But when he found he was accepted into the Teach for America program, he knew he had found the right fit. Garrett helped develop a refugee program for school children in Charlottesville, Va., and wanted to use the skills that he had acquired through this experience to close the education gap in Delaware. His first year of teaching science was an adjustment, but, with Garrett's help, students performed 30 percent better on the state's physics assessment. Not one to rest on his laurels, he was appointed to the Barclays Bank Teacher Roundtable to develop initiatives for Barclays College Access, and he joined with the Boys and Girls Club and the Forum to advance Minorities in Engineering to pilot a summer science immersion program. He was also one of 33 educators named to the Delaware Dream Team, a group of innovative teachers selected to design Common Core formative assessments for the 2014 school year. An avid Phillies fan, this year Garrett has been able to share his love of baseball as assistant coach of the junior varsity girls softball team.
Why Garrett roots for the Phillies: "My passion for the Phillies began when I practiced my kindergarten reading skills by reviewing Phillies box scores and then sharing them with my parents, friends and teachers."

Gina Rexrode

Leasure Elementary School
Bear, Del.

Nominated for the Teacher of the Year award four times in four different schools, Gina Rexrode has been recognized by colleagues and students alike as an educational difference-maker. Over her 14 years as a teacher, Gina has employed every tool at her disposal to make sure her students' learning experience is a memorable one. This includes dressing up as a 100-year-old lady, Mary Poppins, a mad scientist and a butterfly to dancing or playing basketball. She has also made her mark by establishing her school's first science fair, a composition book program that is mailed globally and returned to her students at year's end and by teaching special evening and summer classes in her district. On top of all of this, she also takes time to make sure that students who need extra attention and nurturing receive it. In short, this Phillies fan is an educational all-star.
Why Gina roots for the Phillies: "Growing up, we didn't have a choice, so I have loved the Phillies since I was old enough to know what a baseball is!"

Jabari Whitehead

Roberts Elementary
Wayne, Pa.

A 17-year educator and lifelong Phillies fan, Jabari Whitehead knows a thing or two about patience and compassion. He first earned his stripes teaching second- and fourth-grade classes in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Talbot County, Md. His next stop was as an assistant principal for grades seven and eight at Upper Merion Area Middle School in Pennsylvania. Over the years, in addition to his classroom duties, he also found the time to coach high school and middle school football and wrestling. Today, Principal Whitehead is a larger-than-life presence at Roberts Elementary. He truly takes the time to make sure that his students get the best education possible in a nurturing environment. Recently, he made local news after losing a bet with his students. After they surpassed a book-reading goal he set, Principal Whitehead followed through on his end of the bargain and kissed a pig on the mouth. It was but a minor sacrifice for a man who cares for his school.
Why Jabari roots for the Phillies: "I've always rooted for my hometown Phillies, the team outside my front door, since Schmidtty, VonHayes, Kruker, Howard, Rollins and more. Honestly, cheering for a non-Philly team is cause for exile from my family."

Suzanne Blair

Keystone Education Center
Greenville, Pa.

A hard-working mother of three, Suzanne Blair knows full well how difficult it is to raise a child and focus on other responsibilities. Teaching health and consumer science at Keystone Charter School for the last seven years, Suzanne is a shining example of what a teacher should be. Seeing a need to reduce the dropout rate of teen mothers, Suzanne designed and implemented a teen parenting program at her school which caters to at-risk students. In addition to educating students on pregnancy prevention in her health curriculum, Suzanne offers a full-year program dedicated to educating teen mothers from pregnancy to birth. She homeschools all of her teen moms at their homes following the birth of their child and assists them in learning the necessary skills needed to care for their child. She helps students in getting to appointments, securing clothes and diapers, and even babysitting. She spends countless dollars of her personal money to assist her students when needed. She is on call 24/7 with her students, assisting them with problems and concerns at all hours of the day and night. In addition, she has successfully secured three grants over the last four years, two that were Pennsylvania grants for Teen Pregnancy and HIV prevention in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, she obtained the Highmark Healthy High 5 School Challenge grant for $10,000 and used the money to construct a low ropes course that not only encouraged fitness but built teamwork and trust. She has been an active participant in her community as a past board member of the local recreation board and president for eight years of a 400-plus youth soccer program. She was recently recognized as one of the 2014 Shenango/Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Teachers of the Year. A former student sums up Suzanne best: "She is like a mom. Every time I have a problem, she is the first person I talk to. Her opinion matters to me."
Why Suzanne roots for the Pirates: "Not only are they my hometown team, but I am absoBUCNlutely impressed by all of their philanthropic efforts aimed at improving the lives of our youth!"

Nicole Dow-Macosky

Hatboro-Horsham High School
Horsham, Pa.

Nicole Dow-Macosky is an inspiration to her students as well as her community. She has always focused on helping students, both in the classroom and out. After losing her mother to breast cancer, Nicole started Project Chemo Crochet, an initiative that received media attention and pulled an entire community together, both locally and nationally. People from 39 states crocheted and donated blankets to those suffering from cancer. A teacher for 11 years, Nicole has written multiple curricula for courses, was a year-one Classrooms for the Future teacher in 2006 and wrote successful grants for her district. This year, she was given a Champion of Learning award by her district as a top teacher. She is now leading her peers in a Hybrid Learning initiative and has been asked by industry experts to share her math instructional videos online. Nicole has also helped students and their families in "Be a part of the conversation," focusing on drug prevention and awareness. In terms of giving back to the community, this is one Pirates fan who would make Roberto Clemente proud.
Why Nicole roots for the Pirates: "I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates because I love their passion, intensity and rich history."

Rebecca Hauser

Franklin Regional High School
Murrysville, Pa.

On April 9, 2014, there was a mass stabbing at Franklin Regional High School in Pittsburgh. During the commotion, third-year teacher Rebecca Hauser ran outside along with everyone else and awaited further instructions. When she heard that one of her students was among the victims, she ran back into the school. She proceeded to aid and comfort her student until the EMTs arrived. This one incident does not define who Rebecca is, but it offers some insight into what a committed and caring teacher she is. She is currently working on a Master's in science education from Saint Vincent College and has been accepted into a STEM doctoral program at the University of Pittsburgh. This is one Pirates fan who is not afraid to better herself and the lives of those around her.
Why Rebecca roots for the Pirates: "The Pirates are my favorite team because I've grown up watching them, always enjoy rooting them on and can't imagine a summer without spending several days watching them at PNC Park!"

Keith Ballard

Southwest Middle School
San Diego

Music teacher Keith Ballard recognized a need for musical programs designed for his many ethnic students. He has created an African drum ensemble, steel drum band ensemble and the amazing mariachi ensembles. Keith runs one of the largest mariachi programs in the U.S., and his students have performed for President Bush and President Clinton. Because of Keith's work, his district has expanded the program to 13 schools, and now more than 800 students are involved in the mariachi program. Keith has received more than 30 teaching awards in his career, including the 2003 Milken National Educator Award and the Cesar Chavez Human Rights Award. Many of Keith's students have family members in Mexico who cannot travel to the U.S. because of documentation issues. Once a year, Keith takes his students to perform a large concert in Tijuana, Mexico, where they are able to see their families for the first time. Keith says that many of the family members "cry with tears of happiness" to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Why Keith roots for the Padres: "I first became a fan of the San Diego Padres when I met the Padres relief pitcher and Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers in 1977. He was my next door neighbor when my father owned some property on Mt. Helix in La Mesa."

Tim Gilliland

Desert Mesa Elementary School
Yuma, Ariz.

A native of San Diego and lifelong Padres fan, Tim Gilliland first discovered he had a natural talent for working with children while coaching youth soccer as a high school student. After graduating from San Diego State University, he took a teaching job in rural Arizona, and 36 years later, he's still going strong. A countywide Teacher of the Year finalist, Tim has mentored pre-service teachers for more than 20 years. He was one of the first teachers in his district to embrace the creative use of technology, and both he and his students have received national recognition for their work. His fifth-grade class is currently working with their first-grade buddies to document the life stories of seniors in assisted living facilities. He has also pioneered the use of reading assistance dogs in schools. Tim believes in giving back to the community and does so by working with Guide Dogs for the Blind. He also helped established Tails of Joy, a pet partner program that provides therapeutic visits to patients. Back in the classroom, Tim has the audacity to believe that kids can figure hard stuff out. And because he believes it, so do they.
Why Tim roots for the Padres: "I have my dad to thank for making me a Padres fan, telling me stories about players like Ted Williams and Luke Easter that he'd seen at the old Lane Field just a stone's throw from PETCO Park."

Stephanie Hubner

Mar Vista High School
Imperial Beach, Calif.

A high school English teacher and avid Padres fan, Stephanie Hubner roots for the underdog both in and out of the classroom. Teaching at Mar Vista High for more than 10 years, Stephanie's main focus has been working with disadvantaged and high-need students. From 2010-2013, she co-taught special-needs education English. She also ran a peer mediation and anti-bullying program, with the goal of minimizing safety issues on campus, from 2005-2014. Along with her normal classroom workload, Stephanie also works in the after-school tutoring center to assist struggling students. She taught a special California high school exit exam class for several years, ensuring that more than 100 juniors and seniors passed the test required to graduate in California. In 2013, Stephanie was recognized by her district as an outstanding teacher of English learners. But it all comes back to the essentials. Stephanie is a dedicated teacher who cares about her students and goes above and beyond to make learning fun. By integrating lessons with technology and media, she is able to hold student interest and spark their creativity. Her passion for teaching is inspiring, and her commitment to each student goes beyond academics.
Why Stephanie roots for the Padres: "The Padres always promise an exciting time with family and friends at PETCO Park!"

Kerri Baetkey

Bacich Elementary School
Kentfield, Calif.

Making a difference in the lives of English Language Learner students and their families, Kerri Baetkey is tenacious in supporting and advocating for their needs and allowing their voices to be heard in their community. Acknowledging that education is the key to our social issues in the world, she believes children who feel loved, believed in and appreciated can succeed as they advance as students. Each summer, she advocates for a summer-school experience for ELL children who would otherwise not have this opportunity. She also hosts ELAC (English Learner Advisory Committee) parent informational evenings, game nights and committees in order to help them have a voice in their school system. But this spirited Giants fan doesn't stop there. Kerri also secured grants to fund a listening library and helped create a "You're the Boss" Briefcase program, bringing the joy of writing into homes using office and writing supplies for students to explore. An optimist, a dreamer and a believer, Kerri's success comes from a place of compassion and creativity.
Why Kerri roots for the Giants: "My earliest memories include the roar of the crowd buzzing with "Let's-Go-Gi-ants." Being a San Francisco Giants fan has been a family tradition for generations!"

Robin Kunysz

Gavalin View Middle School
Salinas, Calif.

An educator for 33 years, with more than 28 at her current school, Robin Kunysz's love of teaching has not diminished one bit. She teaches a life-skills elective that covers such things as cooking, sewing, drug education, public speaking and resume writing. She also is the ASB/yearbook advisor and leads the class in its community service efforts with the charity Free the Children. She estimates that she's taught more than 21,000 students in her distinguished career, which sounds like an attendance figure for her beloved San Francisco Giants. Whether it's taking her students to Washington to experience rich history or rallying her class to buy holiday presents for the Salvation Army, Robin has impacted the lives of so many students and their families. She now is teaching the children of her former students. Some of her students have gone on to become chefs and other professions in the culinary industry. Others are just happy to tell her that they still make her twice-baked potatoes, pie dough or snickerdoodles. She's clearly made an impact. And with results like these, it's no wonder Robin still loves teaching.
Why Robin roots for the Giants: "Being part of the San Francisco Giants family has brought my personal family closer as well as my students and me, as we all share the values the team represents and demonstrate on the field and in the community."

Tracy Ruiz

Will C. Wood High School
Vacaville, Calif.

As an educator for 17 years, one thing is perfectly clear: Tracy Ruiz loves kids. She is the first teacher to arrive in the morning and the last to leave. But to truly understand Tracy is to witness what she does for others. For example, one of her students was born with a heart defect, which inspired Tracy to become a camp counselor for kids with heart disease. This strengthened her bond with her student and helped her better understand the young lady's challenges. One Christmas, Tracy chose three students with challenging home lives and gave them a Christmas they would not have had otherwise. For 12 days, she secretly gave each student a small gift -- purchased with her own money -- wrapped and delivered anonymously. It was unimportant to her that the students knew who gave the gifts, only that they knew that someone cared about them. This past year, Tracy started the Winter Wishes program. Under Tracy's leadership, students and staff came together to grant hundreds of wishes, ranging from a warm winter coat for a sibling to prom tickets to deserving seniors. From individual interactions to large-scale rallies and events, Tracy has been the driving force for a culture change at school.
Why Tracy roots for the Giants: "My love for the Giants began with Dave Dravecky, as I followed his inspirational journey, and today, there's no place I'd rather be -- school night or summer evening -- than surrounded by thousands of fans, all cheering for the best team in baseball."

Bob Bruce

Fern Ridge Middle School
Elmira, Ore.

Bob Bruce grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, and has accumulated a rich 30 years' experience in education, culminating in a Teacher of the Year and Man of the Year awards from his community. His students know that during lunch, they can find this Seattle Mariners fan in his classroom, offering a place to study or catch up on homework. Throughout his career, Bob has encouraged leadership for all his students, spearheading the Friday club, a leadership group that met after school on Fridays. They worked hard to hold fundraisers for the local community, put on the annual school talent show and other events that brought the whole town together. He then breathed new life into the leadership program at the middle school, where his students have been inspired to donate tens of thousands of dollars to Habitat for Humanity and the local Community Chest. Bob is also a friend to parents, spending countless nights going to his students' homes to conduct in-person conferences. He believes that knowing his kids' backgrounds is integral to helping them succeed to the fullest, and he continues to be a friendly ear to any student who needs to talk.
Why Bob roots for the Mariners: "I grew up in Alaska and have lived in Oregon for 33 years, so the Mariners have been my "hometown team" since they started in Seattle."

Bob Porto

Lawrence School
Falmouth, Mass.

Bob Porto is a teacher of engineering, whose real-world experience and community involvement has been an inspiration to many. With 20 years of experience in education -- and even more as a Seattle Mariners fan -- Bob has worked as an environmental educator, camp director and coordinator on a schooner in Puget Sound in Washington, teaching marine science and maritime studies to kids. He believes in engaging, hands-on curriculum that combines problem-solving skills, tools and the engineering design process. His students love that he keeps classes interesting and engaging with a variety of activities and engineering challenges that create a collaborative learning environment. Each project is designed to accommodate diverse needs and skill sets, resulting in a high level of active participation. His students' projects often appear at school committee meetings and every year, they participate in the Falmouth Schools Community Science Fair. Bob is known for bringing cross-age connections to the learning environment, with elementary and middle school students working together to build something great through teamwork.
Why Bob roots for the Mariners: "I've been a fan of the Mariners because I have lived near Seattle for several years, and because the team is a class act, as are Mariners fans!"

Kevin Zelko

Kimball Elementary School

Kevin Zelko has taught special education for elementary school students for more than 11 years. He is not only a giving person, but a huge fan of the Seattle Mariners as well, and at one time even worked as a concession vendor at Mariners games. This year, Kevin combined his passion for teaching and his passion for sports by launching a fundraiser to get every kid in his school a sports jersey. Teaching in a low-income area, he noticed that not every kid could afford to show their team pride on jersey day, so he took his idea to social media and raised $25,000 in 10 days to get every student in the school a Seahawks jersey for the Super Bowl. Kevin has impacted countless children's lives with his patience, understanding and support. In 2011, he received the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom Award for his dedication to the field of special education. He has gone above and beyond to not only affect kids' lives educationally, but also instill a sense of pride in community through sports.
Why Kevin roots for the Mariners: "I am a passionate Mariners fan because the team brings Seattle together like nothing else!"

Hank Kauffman

Ladue High School
Ladue, Mo.

Hank Kauffman taught math for 52 years in the very same high school, starting in 1961. He's been awarded an outstanding teaching award from the University of Chicago and is in the Who's Who Among America's Teachers. Hank's impact is best revealed by the fact that there were more interruptions in his classes than any other. A few short breaks at unannounced times in nearly every class session; when you're an incredible educator and even better friend, there's bound to be interruptions from former students, coming back just to say "Hey Hank," to their favorite teacher. They don't mean to interrupt; they just wanted to say "hi" to their friend, see that smile of his and hear his caring voice. One former student changed careers to become a math teacher himself at age 50. He got a teaching job in an inner-city Chicago high school, but when he struggled with the lessons, he reached out to Hank, who walked him through the math and the best ways to teach it. For weeks on end, he would help this former student. Just as he had done so many years in the classroom, Hank wasn't just teaching math, he was instilling confidence.
Why Hank roots for the Cardinals: "I am a huge fan of the St. Louis Cardinals because I live in St. Louis and because my friends and family have been huge Cardinals fans all of my life!"

Dee Ann Moran

Winding Creek Elementary
Moore, Okla.

Dee Ann Moran has been a teacher for 22 years for Moore public schools. She taught kindergarten for 12 years and has been teaching second graders for the past 10 years. This spirited Cardinals fan lives her life according to the quote, "Whatever you are, be a good one!" And she is a good one! Dee Ann is determined to provide her students with innovative, engaging and creative activities, all of which cost money that's not in the budget. She still manages to find those resources. More than 50 of her projects have been funded through (totaling $30,000). She has also received two grants from AdoptAClassroom, nine grants from the Moore Public Schools Foundation and $2,500 from Farmers ThankaMillionTeachers program. Barring that, she never hesitates to dip into her own wallet to give her students the education she feels they deserve. This four-time Teacher of the Year recipient protected her students when a devastating tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., in 2013, and then went about helping raise money for two schools that were destroyed in that disaster. She loves going to school every day and always says she is blessed to have a job that doesn't feel like a job.
Why Dee Ann roots for the Cardinals: "I am a Cardinals fan because my aunt and uncle moved to St. Louis, and whenever we visited we would go to a ballgame. Great memories!"

Sam Skibbe

Craig Elementary School
St. Louis

Last year was big for St. Louis Cardinals fan Sam Skibbe. He was named 2013 Teacher of the Year at Craig Elementary, then Parkway's Elementary Teacher of the Year and finally Parkway District Teacher of the Year! That's practically a career's worth of accomplishments for this third-year vocal music educator. But accolades like these do not come without a lot of hard work. Sam spends a significant amount of outside time developing music programming, including a school choir, rehearsing and performing an annual school musical and serving as faculty sponsor of the school's chess club. His energy, enthusiasm and passion have inspired students to be the very best they can be while still allowing them to have fun with music. Sam is a talented motivator whose work ethic and willingness to always go the extra mile for his students separates him from the rest of the pack.
Why Sam roots for the Cardinals: "There is something so romantic and magical about a baseball game, especially at Busch. I remember going to Cards games with my family, and one game when I was younger my mother taught me how to keep score, which is a tradition I have continued for each and every Cardinals game I have attended."

Constance Hines

Wiregrass Ranch High School
Welsey Chapel, Fla.

Constance Hines has been teaching for 28 years, and she has made her mark in many ways. During her career, this history instructor has been named Broward County Teacher of the Year and Pasco County High School Social Studies Teacher of the Year. One of her most important contributions has been the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at Wiregrass Ranch High School. As sponsor of the GSA, Constance has helped many students who have experienced problems. One student says, "She is a great listener and advice provider. She will go out of her way to help anyone who needs it. Without her, I wouldn't be as confident in myself as I am now." And Constance is an animal lover too, volunteering for the Cat Crusaders of Tampa organization at PetSmart.
Why Constance roots for the Rays: "I love the Rays' 'never quit' attitude and their hard-working style. Besides, what other MLB team has a rally cat named DJ Kitty?"

Alison Kearney

Bonita Springs Charter School
Bonita Springs, Fla.

In Alison Kearney's relatively short five years of teaching, she has quickly become one of the most successful and loved teachers at her school. She teaches reading and language arts to a wide range of students with an advanced class, an intensive class and an on-level class. Students respect and admire her, and they often continue to keep in touch after graduating. For Alison's students, her love of running and sports has inspired them to start healthy habits at home. This Tampa Bay Rays fan also coaches the girls' volleyball team, and because she is so well-loved, students clamor to try out for her team. Even students with issues at home open up to her because they trust and respect her, and she never fails to inspire them to lead healthier lives and respect each other.
Why Alison roots for the Rays: "I'm a fan of the Rays because their energy, humor and camaraderie on and off the field make baseball fun to watch!"

Rolf Metral

Manatee Elementary School
Naples, Fla.

Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, Rolf Metral came to the U.S. knowing no English and spent his first two years in education teaching English Language Learners (ELL), so he understands the difficulties faced by parents who don't speak English. Two years ago, Rolf applied for and received a grant to provide after-school instruction to parents. He teaches them technology and English, so they're able to check their children's grades, send emails and do basic Internet searches -- tasks that most of us take for granted, but that can change lives. Rolf now teaches fifth grade, but has also taught fourth and is officially recognized by the state of Florida as a "highly-effective" teacher. Although an injury ended his dreams of playing Major League baseball, Rolf still loves the game and volunteers as a Little League coach. He won many awards as a baseball player in high school and college, but he is even prouder of the recognition and praise he has received as a teacher.
Why Rolf roots for the Rays: "I love the Rays because they have been part of my life's best moments. It was the first game I took my wife to 13 years ago, the last game my father and I got to go to before his passing, and it was the first game I ever took my son to."

Alexandra Cornejo

Lucio Middle School
Brownsville, Texas

Alexandra Cornejo spent four years at an elementary school in an impoverished area working with many at-risk students. Thanks to her dedication and commitment, her students in the first year earned above 90 percent passing rate. Alexandra was committed to helping her students after school, during planning time and even held Saturday tutorials for reading enrichment. She currently teaches sixth-grade reading in a low-income area with a large concentration of bilingual students. She is known for her calm and respectful manner, and her patience has earned the students' respect and adoration. After school, this Texas Rangers fan takes part in the 21st century program, which provides academic enrichment for students who attend low-performing schools in high-poverty areas. She engages students in activities for reading fluency and comprehension, often integrating computers and technology. She enjoys participating in after-school programs because she knows the dangers that lie outside the gates of her school, and this is an activity that keeps the children safe, occupied and inspired to be college bound.
Why Alexandra roots for the Rangers: "With my father being a huge fan of the Texas Rangers, I remember sitting on his lap cheering on Nolan Ryan as he threw his notorious fastballs. One memorable occasion is when our jaws dropped in 1993, as Robin Ventura rushed the mound and Nolan Ryan taught him to mind his elders, Texas style. My father passed in 2003; he would have been thrilled about the Rangers' making it to the World Series."

Felton Dickens

George Peabody Elementary

Over the course of his 26-plus years as an educator, Felton Dickens has touched countless lives teaching elementary through high school. He has served as a headmaster at a private school, principal, vice principal and academic coordinator, where he worked with at-risk bilingual kids to keep them from falling behind. Going above and beyond is routine for Felton. He will often work a full day in a low-income Dallas school, then go to work at night to help at-risk kids through a private program that gives them access to computer labs and museums. Those who have served with him have only respect. Turning 70 this year, Felton is a proud Texas Rangers fan, and lives just blocks from Globe Life Park Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Recently, he teamed up with Target and the NFL to bring a library to a poor community in Dallas. This year, he was presented the Doing What Needs to be Done Award for his work providing more than 8,000 meals to low-income families. Felton was also asked to present at the Texas State Teachers Association in Austin, Texas, on inspiring readers and presented at the National Private School Conference in New Orleans on fundraising Practices. More than likely, he will retire soon, but he will never be far from helping those in need, and will always serve as an inspiration to others.
Why Felton roots for the Rangers: "The Texas Rangers have brought my family together in many ways, such as my son's becoming engaged at the ballpark and all the glitz the Rangers offered for the occasion."

Brenda Medina

Oak Park Elementary
Corpus Christi, Texas

Brenda Medina is a fourth-grade bilingual teacher and Texas Rangers fan. She embodies the true definition of what a teacher should be, often staying late and working through lunch. At one time, she struggled with the very same issue many of her fourth-grade students have: growing up in a Spanish-speaking home and learning English as a second language. Her students connect and relate to her, and she takes time to help their parents to translate school documents or even help with things like completing job applications. Brenda's students know her for being a positive, upbeat person, and she takes in stride the demands put on her as a teacher and a leader. Every year, she gets a new group of students, and every year they love her and want to do their best for her. She truly brings out the best in her students and her colleagues, and is an inspiration to many.
Why Brenda roots for the Rangers: "I am a fan of the Texas Rangers because that was a team our family grew up watching, but I became more of a fan when one of our very own, Nolan Ryan, joined the Texas Rangers in 1989."

Lauranne Benoit

Andrew Mynarski School
Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Lauranne Benoit is a guidance counselor and Toronto Blue Jays fan with eight years' experience and a lifetime of positivity. She has overcome her own battles with skin cancer, fighting hard and barely missing a day, knowing just how much her students depend on her. Knowing that she will be there for them regardless of the outcome gives her students the confidence to take risks each day in their learning. Lauranne sees countless students each day with a variety of problems, from eating disorders and loss of a family member to just learning to take life one day at a time. Her ability to reach her students and encourage them to remain in school is a testament to her abilities to instill trust and honesty. Lauranne is more than a guidance counselor to her students. She is a source of advice and comfort at a time when many things are changing and confusing, and the joy she brings to her job each day can be felt in every student she reaches.
Why Lauranne roots for the Blue Jays: "The Blue Jays are my favourite team because it was the first baseball game that my parents ever took me to at Exhibition Stadium. Also, the fact that they are the only Canadian team solidifies why they continue to be my favourite team."

Rolland Chidiac

St. Anne
Kitchener, ON, Canada

As a second-generation Canadian, Rolland grew up learning English as a second language and struggling at school. Those academic challenges inspired him to set goals and persist to reach them. It also helped him develop standards of care, trust, respect and integrity. When one of Rolland's students started the school year depressed, troubled and uninterested in school, the care, compassion and trust he showed made all the difference. Rolland worked very hard to connect with the student to ensure that he was learning and excelling in all aspects of school life. Rolland collaborates with his colleagues to help build and maintain a positive school climate. He has worked for anti-bullying efforts and is part of exciting transformation in the school system in the area of 21st-century teaching and learning. With his knowledge and experience integrating technology into the classroom, he is a role model for other teachers. Rolland has received best practice awards from his teachers association, a school Staff Recognition award, a Teacher of Excellence award and a Schools of Excellence award, which provided iPads for students with autism. He is a team leader of the Ministry of Education's Teacher Learning and Leadership program, which provided funding to help him meet the needs of all his students with the use of technology.
Why Rolland roots for the Blue Jays: "I am a Toronto Blue Jays fan because they are true North, strong and free. They are Canada's team!"

Brian Jackson

Ralph McCall School
Airdrie, AB, Canada

With 23 years in education, Brian Jackson has taught everything from physical education to history to his favorite subject, science. For 14 years, he taught at a small-town school, wearing many hats: classroom teacher, acting assistant principal and serving as a community of practice lead teacher for the school district. Passing on his passion for science to his students, he brings excitement to the classroom by connecting the classrooms to astronauts on the International Space Station. He also brings in guest speakers from politics, science programs and sports teams, like his favorite, the Toronto Blue Jays, to make learning real. He has twice received the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence. He also received the Space Educator of the Year Award from Space Centre A, and was awarded a $10,000 Innovative Technology Grant to purchase iPads and Macbooks for his classroom. He won the Right Stuff Award from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and sent a student to space camp. He was the first international teacher to win the AIAA Educator of the Year. He's inspired so many to explore science and teaches all his students to reach for the stars and beyond.
Why Brian roots for the Blue Jays: "I am a fan because I am Canadian and this is Canada's team. I grew up watching the Jays and my sports heroes were Jays -- I jumped with Joe Carter and got tense with every Dave Stieb pitch. I have always been, and will always be, a Blue Jays fan!"

Sabrina Hayden

Randle Highlands
Washington, D.C.

Washington Nationals fan and special-education teacher Sabrina Hayden is a pioneer when it comes to developing programs that help benefit children in low-income communities. Among her many initiatives, Sabrina recently wrote a grant for a program called Youth Ambassadors, which will help educate children about the harmful effects of tobacco. A single mom to a 9-year-old son and having been in education for over eight years, she fully understands the importance of providing high-quality education to students with and without disabilities. In 2007, she founded the non-profit First Impressions Enterprises which focuses on girls mentoring, health education and providing STEM opportunities to minority youth. Her latest project is establishing a Saturday school called the Hayden Academy, which is set to launch in May. She is currently seeking funding in order to make this school either cost-free or, at the very least, reasonable for parents to send their children there. On top of all of her tireless efforts on behalf of her students, Sabrina is presently pursuing her Ph.D. at Capella University.
Why Sabrina roots for the Nationals: "I take great pride in being a Washingtonian and we FINALLY have a team of our own! While growing up in the DMV, the only baseball team to cheer for was the Baltimore Orioles. No love lost, I love the game of baseball! And Washington has the best fans!"

Jessica Valoris

Brooklyn Comm Arts High School
Brooklyn, N.Y.

From a family of loyal Washington Nationals fans, Jessica Valoris is both a team player and a leader within her community. Growing up Jessica was very quiet. She began to blossom in high school through her participation in community-based arts programs and other extracurricular activities. She carried this positive momentum through high school, and later received a full scholarship to Eugene Lang College in New York. Upon her graduation, she turned her efforts toward empowering young people through arts and education. In her six years as a resource teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jessica went the extra mile to make sure students received a well-rounded education both in and out of school. She worked closely with other teachers to make sure the school curriculum was culturally relevant and got students involved with mural painting, poetry, music production and giving back to their community. She continued her work outside the classroom, facilitating creative projects at local recreation centers and with community-based organizations. Loved by her students and respected by her colleagues, when budget issues almost forced the school to eliminate her position, her fellow teachers declined pay raises so that she could stay on.
Why Jessica roots for the Nationals: "My mother is a proud DC native and was a fan of the Washington baseball team when they were called the Senators. I am a fan of the Washington Nationals because of my family."

Chad Wright

Kettle Run High School
Nokesville, Va.

It probably comes as no surprise that Chad Wright's favorite baseball team, the Nationals, plays in our nation's capital. After all, he's been teaching government for 10 years. When it comes to teaching his students, Chad likes to think outside the box. He is very focused on bringing new technology into the classroom to help his students learn. He's invited Congressional candidates to talk to his classes and also taken students to the Capitol to see Congress in action. During the 2012 presidential election, he set up a mock election at the school that drew the attention of local papers. But it's not all about government and politics in Chad's class. He actually asks each of his students to go out and complete 10 hours of service learning and community service as part of his class requirements. His passion for teaching extends to the entire world, as he challenges his students to learn as much as they can about other countries and cultures. Overall, Chad is an amazing teacher, with a great sense of humor, who can really unite a classroom and school.
Why Chad roots for the Nationals: "The Washington Nationals have brought my family and friends together through our passion for the game of baseball."

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NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The PEOPLE All-Star Teachers Contest is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense school overseas and Canada (excluding residents of the Province of Quebec) who are at least thirteen (13) years of age as of 3/10/14. To enter and view complete Official Rules, which govern this Contest, visit Contest begins at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) on 3/10/14 and ends at 11:59 p.m. (ET) on 6/29/14. Entry period ends at 11:59 p.m. (ET) on 5/6/14. Void in Quebec and where prohibited by law. Sponsor: PEOPLE Magazine. Major League Baseball trademarks and copyrights are used with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. Visit Target trademarks and copyrights are used with permission of Target Properties. Visit