A car recently pulled up to City View High School in Phoenix carrying lunch for 10 teachers. A special lunch delivery is always a welcomed sight, but this wasn’t just any lunch and the car wasn’t just any car.
The lunches were delivered by Waymo through a partnership with the Phoenix nonprofit Million Dollar Teacher Project to support the organization’s “Take a Teacher to Lunch” program. The autonomous driving company Waymo, which operates the Waymo One ride-hailing service in Phoenix, is donating use of its vehicles to help make eight lunch deliveries to teachers this year.
Million Dollar Teacher Project was founded in 2016 by education advocate Lloyd Hopkins to support teachers at Title I schools across Metro Phoenix, where resources are often limited and teacher turnover can be high.
Jennifer Morales, Teacher Recognition Coordinator with the Million Dollar Teacher Program, said the Take a Teacher to Lunch Program is a key component of the organization’s pillar to promote teacher recognition and retention. Morales, who was a teacher for 15 years, said catered lunches are a real treat for teachers.
“They get to just come into a comfortable space where there are no computers, there are no parent phone calls going on, no grading having to be done,” Morales explained, adding that the teachers can relax and spend time together.
The fully catered lunches are donated by Phoenix restaurants such as The Spaghetti Shack, Blanco Cocina + Cantina, Little Os 7th Avenue, Olive Garden-Christown, Carolina's Mexican Food, Helpings Café and Dave & Buster's-Tempe Marketplace.
“We're really trying to build our programs at the schools and at the campuses that really need our services the most to help keep those amazing teachers in their classrooms and in their positions and doing what they love,” Morales said.
We're really trying to build our programs at the schools and at the campuses that really need our services the most to help keep those amazing teachers in their classrooms and in their positions and doing what they love.
Morales said that on the day Waymo made a lunch delivery at City View High School, the teachers were able to chat with a Waymo autonomous specialist, get into the vehicle, take photos, and check out Waymo’s features.
“The beauty of working with teachers is that they are forever students themselves and they were curious,” Morales recalled. “They wanted to know more about how the vehicles work and the efficiency and the electrical components because an autonomous vehicle is still very unique.”
Morales said the staff of the Million Dollar Teacher Program were surprised and impressed at how easy it was to take a ride with Waymo.
“I would say the biggest takeaway for both of our employees who rode along was the ease; how easy it was just to get in the car, get the food in the trunk, press start, and away you went,” Morales shared. “They were really excited and pleased with how easy the vehicles were to use.”
Waymo uses its 360-degree vision system to identify cyclists and pedestrians and make decisions to maximize their safety. Morales said she believes Waymo, which is designed to follow speed limits, be continuously aware of all road users, and drive safely, could also improve road safety on the dense urban roads where Title I school students live.
“The students, if they are not riding a bus, are walking to school or riding their bikes to school,” Morales explained. “Definitely having safer options in these areas is wonderful and it’s why we’re doing the collaboration with Waymo.”
The students, if they are not riding a bus, are walking to school or riding their bikes to school. Definitely having safer options in these areas is wonderful and it’s why we’re doing the collaboration with Waymo.
Million Dollar Teacher Project Executive Director Lloyd Hopkins said the organization’s partnership with Waymo is a perfect fit for a nonprofit founded to support and recognize educators, who he said are responsible for shaping the future.
“Our goal is to make teachers feel special and highlight them for the amazing work they do everyday,” Hopkins emphasized. “The innovative approach we have taken to partnering with Waymo exemplifies that.”
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