The teachers are demanding an immediate 20 percent increase to salaries which are among the lowest in the country, increased pay for support staff, restoring education funding to 2008 levels, and a freeze on tax cuts until the state's education budget reaches the national average.
Today Samuels and thousands of her fellow teachers are out on strike, and up to 50,000 educators and their supporters are expected to march to the Arizona state capitol in almost 100-degree heat.
What does the walkout mean for students, teachers, parents?
"The worst possible thing we could do", he said, "is not take action right now". "One of the pieces that I continue to tell them is that you make sure your communication is out there quickly and you open up those lines of communication", Lee said.
Hundreds of teachers from Jeffco and Douglas County schools - two of Colorado's largest districts - rallied at the state Capitol Thursday during the first of what's anticipated to be two days of gatherings that have canceled class for more than 500,000 students across the state.
Colorado's largest district, Denver Public Schools, will be closed Friday, along with more than a dozen others.
Wendy Gutierrez, a third-grade teacher at Elvira Elementary in the Sunnyside Unified School District, has 31 students in her classroom. After next year's boost, Colorado will underfund its schools by $672 million a year versus what's required by the state Constitution.
Colorado's economy is booming, but the state teachers' union, the Colorado Education Association, says the state has shorted the education system $6.6 billion since 2009.
The spread of the teacher protest movement to Colorado, where Republicans control the State Senate but Democrats command the State House of Representatives and governor's office, signals a crossing of political boundaries.
"We can only speculate", he said.
Many marchers carried #RedforEd signs or posters saying, "Fund our future" and "Ducey, you're out of your element", referring to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Popper's creative writing class was recently cut, along with the school's cooking, dance, film, and robotics programs. "This is truly the last straw", she says.
"The teachers signed a contract, and they need to honor the contract", said Flenniken, describing the walkout as blackmail. The average Colorado teacher earned $51,808 in 2017, according to the national teacher salary data.
"I am coming at this as a parent who cares deeply not only for my own children, but for all the children that attend Arizona schools", Ellsworth says. Worse: Asbestos sometimes flakes off during leaks, causing classroom evacuations.
"Teachers being secure makes for a better environment [for students]", she said.
Arizona teachers in Tempe, Arizona during Wednesday's "walk-in" for higher teacher salaries and more education funding. In her school of 1,600 students, Anderson says there are only 1.5 mental health professionals. Kavanagh said there is some sentiment to allowing school boards to use the new "teacher pay" money to backfill those fix accounts. "We're just seeing more need and there's no money to support that".
In Jefferson County, the number of teachers that called in to take the day off was great enough to close schools for the day. Baum says as other experienced teachers retire, this could lead to a big problem.
"I think you look around and you think it had something to do with it, right?"
Teachers are stretched to the breaking point. "There is nothing else in this world I would rather be than a teacher".