1. East High School - Denver, CO - Jen Sculley
We know that teachers often give of their time and self to help the next generation. However, Jen Sculley of Denver took the term “giving of herself” to the extreme. Sculley is a physical education teacher at the high school. She lost her aunt several years before to cancer of the kidney. It was an aunt that she was very close to, and the hurt was deep. She credited her aunt for getting her through some of the darkest days of her life.
In 2014, she found out that a student in the school had severe kidney disease, and she also had the same name as her aunt. The girl was very sick and the prognosis grim. Sculley stated that she heard the voice of her aunt tell her to donate a kidney to the girl. After some rigorous testing, she found out she was a perfect match. On January 8th, 2014, the kidney transplant took place.
Though the name of the girl was never released, it’s one story that certainly shows that some teachers go to the extreme for their kids. Sculley was off on medical leave for about a month, and she came back to school minus her left kidney. However, she stated that she would do it all again if it meant saving a life.
2. Lew Wallace Elementary - Albuquerque, NM - Sonya Romero
One of the most heartbreaking parts of being a teacher is seeing the extraordinary amount of poverty that some children suffer. For Sonya Romero, she knows all too well that some children don’t get adequate food, toiletries, and clothing to come to school. It’s necessities that many take for granted. Romero touched the heart of America when television talk show host Ellen DeGeneres found out about the good deeds that she does every morning.
When the students come in for class, the first thing Romero asks is if they have eaten breakfast, brushed their teeth, and do they have adequate socks and shoes. She saw early on that when a child didn’t have even these basic things that it impacted their learning abilities and caused them to be the source of bullying. She was nominated for a $400 award by a fellow teacher through the “Pay It 4ward” program. When The Washington Post heard about this story, the rest is history.
When Romero was on the Ellen DeGeneres show, she received $10,000 to stock her classroom with the supplies she needed. Not only did she get this influx of cash, but she started collecting donations and emails of support from around the world. It would be a great story if it stopped there, but this lady proved that her heart is big enough to love and give everything she has. When two children in her kindergarten classroom were being removed and sent to live in a foster home, this teacher stood up and took them into her home to raise as her own.
Romero is the granddaughter of the previous superintendent of the Peñasco Independent Schools. Though he is no longer with her, we are sure he is looking down and smiling. She is continuing his legacy to help the education system, and she gives 110 percent to her students.
3. Evergreen Middle School - Hillsboro OR - Kyle Hubler
Teachers are required to think outside the box and find new ways to engage their students. For Kyle Hubler, he felt that it meant bringing a little magic into the classroom. During the summer break, many teachers are relaxing and trying to de-stress from the previous year. However, Hubler went into high gear to ensure that his next class was a magical place for students to learn. As a big fan of the Harry Potter series, he had quite a collection of memorabilia at home from his childhood. He knew that using these items could help him turn his classroom into a work of art.
It took 70 hours and a lot of creativity, but Hubler was able to make a classroom that looked just like Hogwarts Castle. He recognized that it’s difficult for children in the middle school age group to be able to relate to one another, and they often have inadequate feelings as they head into puberty. He knew all too well the struggle of these times as he often escaped in novels to help him through the dark days.
Creating this masterpiece was not an easy feat. He knew that for students to recognize it, and be able to embrace his dreams, he would have to make sure that everything down to the floating candles was correct. The seventh-grade teacher finished the project and ended up in the newspaper. The Huffington Post did an entire article about his dedication and achievement. Yes, there were floating candles in there, but there was also a sorting hat too. As everyone anticipated, the students were enchanted with the final product. Hubler is another example of a teacher that went above and beyond to help his pupils.
4. Chillicothe High School - Chillicothe, OH - Gregory C. Phillips
The drug epidemic has impacted many societies throughout the country. Teachers often see first-hand the destruction it causes on the students. Many have addicted parents that predispose them to a life of similar behaviors. Chillicothe, Ohio has received a significant amount of publicity due to drug trafficking, and they are also known for the murders of more than seven prostitutes with cases that have yet to be solved. One teacher, Greg Phillips, realized that he might not be able to change the world, but he could start to have an impact on the students he interacts with each day.
The inspiration for this program came from Phillips father. He was a foster child that had placements in more than seven homes growing up. He was abused, and the son of a drug-addicted mother. By all accounts, Jerry would have been another statistic. However, he made a conscious decision to break the cycle. Phillips recalls having a great childhood full of love and support, but if his dad didn’t break that addictive rotation that ran in his family, he might not have had a happy ending.
The CHS Spanish Teacher is a rock star by some accounts. The students love him because he knows how to relate to them on a personal level. Last school year, more than 500 kids signed an agreement to stay drug-free. The program has reached epic proportions, and a local car lot donated a car to be given to one of these “committed” kids. They hope to make the program even more extensive as the years go on. It’s already made a significant difference in the high school and the community. Students can break the drug cycle.
5. Southeast Middle School - Kernersville, NC - John Sigmon
Part of being in the educational system is dealing with children that have special needs. For John Sigmon, he took it on himself to make a difference. You may see him wondering around the halls with a different hair color each week. Sometimes it may be hot pink, and other times it may be jet black. The students are thrilled when they see how far he will go to help one of their own.
Sigmon dyed his hair to raise awareness and to help a six-year-old boy get a service dog. Warren Van Tassle suffers from a horrible case of epilepsy. Having a service dog meant that he could be more active and better prepared for when an event would strike. Being raised by his grandmother, Van Tassel could have never afforded the $15,000 it would take to buy a trained dog. So Sigmon turned to the students to help.
The student who raised the most money each week gets to tell Sigmon what color to die his hair. In 2017, the little boy got his service dog. The fundraiser was a huge success, and now Sigmon is moving on to help other students. He didn’t mind looking a little out of place to help a student who had little hope, and his efforts paid off big time.