Teaching is more than just a job for Sonya Romero of New Mexico. When this kindergarten teacher, at Lew Wallace Elementary School, went to watch Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talk show, she found herself somewhere surprising – on stage!

Every Ellen viewer knows that the comedian/host has a heart that doesn’t stop. She honors those who give back and finds ways to help them with their causes. And this time was no different.

After hearing about Romero, DeGeneres decided to not only have her on the show but also give a little something back to the woman who seems to give to everyone else. Why? Sure, there are plenty of top-notch teachers out there. But, Romero takes what she does truly to heart. Every morning she starts the school day by asking her young students who has eaten, washed, changed their clothes and brushed their teeth. No, this isn’t a way to teach kids about daily hygiene practices. It’s a necessity that Romero needs to include in order to make sure her students are well-cared for.

If a child hasn’t washed, changed, eaten or anything else, she makes sure that it happens. This means spending her own time and money to help. In a true act of selflessness (as if this kindergarten teacher wasn’t already selflessness enough), Romero decided to foster to children from her school. Already the mum of one, when social services showed up at school to take two children into their custody Romero went above and beyond what most teachers would do.

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She knew that coming to the school for the children was a serious move on the part of social services. Instead of just feeling bad or wishing that she could do something to help these kids in need, she stepped in. Volunteering to take the kids for the weekend, Romero figured that she would help out until social services could arrange something that was more permanent. The weekend turned into a week. The week turned into a few more weeks. Before she knew it, half a year went by and Romero had officially become the foster mum to the two children.

The extreme acts of kindness that Romero does on a daily basis at school and at home inspired Ellen to help the mum out. Knowing that the teacher spends her own hard-earned money on her students, Ellen extended a hand via Target. The superstore gave a $10,000 check to Romero herself. Knowing that she would likely use the money to help others, Ellen made sure that Romero got a second $10,000 check to give to her school.

Sonya Romero
Image: Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal

Even though the $10,000 won’t solve Romero’s school’s financial problems, it will certainly take the pressure off of her and the other teachers. According to a National School Supply and Equipment Association survey, in one school year American teachers spend upwards of $1.6 billion on supplies. That is, their own money – and not money from a school budget, administrator, school board or any other funding source. The money doesn’t go to extras or unnecessary items. It’s spent on regular classroom supplies that most parents think the educational institutions do (or at the very least, should) supply. As school budgets tighten, teachers are forced to pick up the slack. What happens when they don’t? Teachers can’t do their jobs and the students suffer. This realization often forces teachers, who are already underpaid, to spend what they do make on their students. If not, some subjects become almost impossible to teach. A teacher can’t help students to explore science without materials to experiment with and children can’t learn how to read without books.

Romero certainly took this concept farther than most do. Her money didn’t just fund her students’ education, it funded their lives. In an interview segment seen on Ellen’s show, Romero’s co-teachers and former students talked about how this one-of-a-kind educator made every child feel special – like he or she mattered and made a difference. The outpouring of love, respect and affection for Romero not only sent the teacher into tears, but made Ellen weepy as well. So, grab a box of tissues and turn on the video to see the story for yourself! Be prepared – even if you think that you can stay stoic during the clip, you won’t.

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