On Sunday, May 7, we celebrate our teachers and volunteers at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church in worship and in the classroom.


If you have children in our Sunday School program, please take a moment to say thank you to your children’s teachers. Write them a note of thanks, give them a flower, or another special token of appreciation.


In worship, we’ll present the Papa Jon Award to Deb Petruzzi, who teaches the Doves with former award winner Keith Sobraske (in 2015 — see https://pvumc.org/2015/01/28/papa-jon-award-recognizes-child-whisperer/). Presented by the Children’s Ministry Team, the “Papa Jon Award” is given annually to a volunteer who has done an outstanding job of ministry with the children at PVUMC.

When Jenn Coughlin, chair of the Children’s Ministry Team, asked children, parents and others what makes Deb such a special teacher, here’s what they said:

She is nice and helps me when I play with Play-Doh. — Bennett, 2

Deb is humble, devoted, and the most loving person of children and God that I hope to model. Thank you, Deb! — Pastor Brenda

From co-teacher, Keith Sobraske:
Two-year-olds don’t typically say things about their teachers, except there are times when one sees children, as I have, experiencing the tears of separation anxiety, being comforted in the warm, embracing arms of Teacher Deb and the tears magically evaporate; when they subtly gravitate toward her lap at circle time because it is simply a good place to be; when they seek to explore and discover, asserting their independence in what is for some their first group setting, “spilling and filling,” as we say in the business, but mostly spilling everything, while Teacher Deb revels in the chaos created in the room; when they just need to be away from the crowd, and Teacher Deb takes the time to curl up next to them on the pillows for a good read that puts them at ease; when they won’t sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” unless Teacher Deb is there to wildly demonstrate what happens to the hard-luck but very determined spider; when they show their magical art work to their parents, and Teacher Deb looks on with a warm heart; and when they shout out “Amen, Alleluia, Praise the Lord!” as the end of the prayer, and they are thankful that God has blessed them with such a tender soul as Teacher Deb to share His Love with them. No, two year olds don’t typically make comments about their teachers….

I have had the joy and pleasure of teaching the Doves class with Deb for the last 5 years, and continue to marvel at her unwavering care for the children; at the marvelous children, William and Helene, she has reared to be sensitive and helpful to the little ones in the Doves class; and particularly at her astounding dedication. From August through May, she misses about 2 Sundays a year! While lightweights like Mr. Keith take the summer off, Deb continues through the summer, providing the continuity so important with this age child. She blesses the children, our church, and our Lord.

Deb seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to her Sunday school children! She guides, instructs, nurtures and loves them with such apparent ease. They love her, listen to her and trust her. We are so fortunate to have such a caring and wonderful volunteer that has blessed and continues to bless our precious children! We love you! –– Miss Shari Paris (Mini Singers Director)

She works in Mr. Keith’s class. She helps with Play-Doh. I love her. — Patrick, 3

We are so grateful for all volunteers at PVUMC, specifically those that work with the children of the church, including Ms. Deb. Ms. Deb’s commitment to the children of PVUMC is unwavering, and it is because of people like Ms. Deb that our children are able to grow their faith in a safe, fun, and loving environment. The children are the future of the church, and the future is bright because of volunteers like Ms. Deb! — Chris and Stacy Miller, parents of Carson

I like when teacher Deb plays with me on the playground and pushes me on the swing. — William, 3

When I asked about teacher Deb, my children repeatedly said “Jesus loves me,” so I would say she’s teaching them the most important thing. — Allison and Johnny Johnson, parents of Caleb and Libby, 2


Besides our volunteer teachers, we also celebrate our other volunteers — who are God’s love in action every day. We extend our gratitude for all the ways you serve, from teaching, filling pew pockets, painting, stuffing bulletins, and so much more — at the church and in the community. We are the body of Christ, and we couldn’t fulfill our mission to ignite faith, transform lives or create community without you and your talents. Thank you!

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