Teacher Creates a Community Library in Her Garage Amid COVID

teacher creates garage library
(Facebook/MissMartin's Neighborhood Library)

An elementary school teacher in Texas had basically accumulated a personal library for her classroom over the years. Then earlier this year COVID-19 caused her school to move to remote learning. With the closest public library inaccessible for most of the community, she wanted to help fill that void and keep kids interested in reading. And that’s why she started a community library, with more than 2,000 books, in her own garage.

Teachers are amazing people. We see reminders of this constantly, as they go above and beyond for their kids. We see it in the teacher that carried a student confined to a wheelchair on a field trip. We saw it when teachers all over the state of Alabama donated sick days to a colleague caring for his infant with cancer. And we see it in the everyday actions teachers take to help kids learn.

In this case, Jennifer Martin had witnessed reluctant and nonreaders blossom into avid readers after having a positive experience with books, so that’s why she got to work on her garage library. A friend built the shelves and Martin moved in her massive collection of books for kids of all ages.

Since opening the library, they have had more than 60 kids check out books (they can get two at a time, on the honor system). More importantly, it’s a chance for her to connect with her students, and for kids to connect with each other (with masks and social distancing rules in place).

“During this challenging time, it’s even more important to provide opportunities for connection,” she told The Dad. “And there’s really nothing like seeing a student’s excitement about getting a new book!”

Martin has run into some hurdles, such as figuring out the best way to sort the books, but she has been blown away by the support from friends, colleagues, parents, and community members. She said she’s had students she taught 10 or 20 years ago who have been donating books through Amazon or even visited the library to make a donation. Some have even come back to help volunteer at the library.

The library continues to add new titles to the mix, including more Spanish books and continues to thrive. 2020 has brought unique challenges, but it’s also seen more than a few people rise to meet the challenge and help other people.

“Reading provides an adventure for the reader, and now, more than ever, we need adventures,” Martin said.

Teachers Parody the Backstreet Boys, Remind Us To “Please Stay Six Feet Away”

Teachers Parody Backstreet Boys in Back to School Video
(Facebook/Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe High School)

If there’s one positive thing that can be said about this bizarre year, it’s that we’ve been forced to get a little creative. Restaurants are finding inventive ways to enforce social distancing, we’ve had to discover brand new ways to stay entertained at home, and teachers have been faced with the unique challenge of making the school year both safe and productive.

The same question pops up over and over – how do we figure out the best way to handle a situation that’s never even existed before? Well, we have no freaking idea, but at least we can have a little fun while trying to figure it out. And that’s exactly what Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe teachers in Georgia did earlier this week, when they flawlessly parodied a Backstreet Boys song in a video welcoming their students back to school.

Amanda Campbell, LFO Teacher, and Coach told WDEF, “I was trying to think how we could reach all of our students and you know, give them something positive to come back to school so I thought of doing a video, and so I asked these guys here to help.”

Teachers and coaches at the high school came together not only to write lyrics to their COVID-era version of “I Want it That Way,” but they sing and record an entire music video as well. Though they likely had a million other things going on in preparation for the start of school, these teachers put in a huge amount of effort to make sure their welcome video was up to par.

One teacher named Sting Weber said of the teachers’ commitment to the project, “I will make sure that we are on point with our costumes and our choreographer because if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right and we’re going to do it better than anybody.”

And that they did. In just a week, the teachers’ “In School It’s That Way” video accumulated over 1.4 million views. The song features lines like, “Tell me why? Six feet is such a long way. Tell me why? I have to use the Lysol spray.” The teachers hit every harmony, their enthusiasm is palpable, and their costumes (ah, the all-white outfits of 90s-era boy bands) bring us back to a simpler time.

These teachers truly deserve a standing ovation. The amount of effort they put in to give their students something to smile about during an enormously stressful time reminds us all why our favorite teachers hold such a special place in our hearts. In the wise words of the LFO staff, “let’s make it to May.”

Creative Dad Sets ‘Despicable Me’ Ground Rules for Virtual Learning

Dad's Despicable Me Ground Rules Virtual Learning
(TikTok/marcusthecreator)

Whatever it looks like for your kids this year, going back to school is anything but ordinary. Balancing everything your child needs to keep track of during virtual learning or trying to remember all of the new rules for in-person classes – it’s a lot. For Marcus Stricklin, a stay-at-home dad from Glendale, Arizona, trying to coordinate his four virtual learners and a 3-year-old is basically the dad Olympics. To say there’s a lot going on in this lively household would be an understatement, and it’s Marcus’s job to keep everyone on task. This busy dad helps the e-learners focus on their schoolwork, entertains a 3-year old, and keeps them all from interfering with his wife’s at-home workday.

At the end of a long day last Friday, Marcus’s daughters were being rowdy while his oldest son and wife were still busy with work. “Instead of telling them to quiet down, I reminded them that there are others in the house that need to work and we owe it to them to be respectful,” Marcus told The Dad.

As many dads have realized, reminders like this are often quickly forgotten. But in a stroke of parenting genius, Marcus decided to make a TikTok with his daughters – not only did this keep them entertained for a while so the rest of his household could continue working, but it reinforced the message he was trying to teach. How? By recreating a scene from the popular movie Despicable Me, in which our favorite supervillain Gru sets some ground rules for his newly-adopted daughters.

Marcus absolutely nails his tentatively confident Gru impression, while his three girls, Sophie, Addison, and Nora, flawlessly play the parts of Gru’s daughters. Throwing his scarf over his shoulder and getting down to business, Marcus begins to lip sync, “Ok – Clearly, we need to set some rules,” which is likely a sentence he has uttered more than a few times (I mean, five kids. FIVE).

The three girls stand at the ready, eagerly awaiting Gr- I mean, Marcus’s instructions. Things go immediately awry with rule number one, “you will not touch anything.” As kids and lawyers are primed to do, one of the girls pipes up with a loophole. “What about the floor?” she responds with a hefty dose of sass reserved only for parents and younger siblings. The video continues with more rules and more adorable objections, a slightly dramatized rendition of real-life versions of similar conversations.

@marcusthecreatorDaily house rules. ##fyp ##despicableme ##fypシ ##parentsoftiktok #♬ original sound – beauthentic8

Marcus’s video has accumulated thousands of views in less than a week, perhaps because of the bizarre circumstances of “school in COVID times”, where everyone is scrambling to figure out the do’s and don’ts of a brand new situation. Of the incredibly positive response the video has received, Marcus told The Dad, “It’s been amazing and surprising to be honest!” He continued, “I was just being goofy and trying to do something fun with the kids, since we’ve been trapped in Quarantine for months.”

To see more of Marcus’s videos (in which his hilarious kids often make appearances), check out his TikTok page.

Teachers Are Getting Creative To Make COVID-Era Classes Less Stressful for Kids

Teacher Creative COVID Classrooms
(Facebook/Stephanie Deal, Instagram/jenniferpierson11)

Going back to school is an anxiety-inducing time when everything else in the world is running smoothly. Add a pandemic to the mix, and it feels like both teachers and students have been thrown into some sort of poorly-planned reality show called “Whose Education Is It Anyway” where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. This isn’t easy, and there are no good answers. Teachers are doing everything they possibly can to prepare for lessons, but perhaps more importantly, they’re preparing countless things that need to be in place to keep both students and staff safe.

When most kids walk into a brand new situation, there’s some degree of anxiety. They don’t know exactly what’s going on, so they’re going to look to the nearest trusted adult to figure out how to feel. Even as adults, it’s easy to let stress overtake you – but teachers are finding some creative ways not only to ease kids’ stress but to help them start the year off on a good note.

One Texas kindergarten teacher named Jennifer Birch Pierson had the brilliant idea to turn her classroom into a parking lot, which makes total sense when your goal is to keep your students in one specific area. I mean, why not give them a parking spot? This crafty teacher completely transformed her room, with each desk decorated as a Jeep. Windshield, face shield, it’s basically the same thing anyway. Walking into this colorful classroom would make any 5-year-old enthusiastic about learning – and it wouldn’t hurt to see colleges and even office buildings follow suit. Better yet, everyone can just work from their car in the parking lot of their office building. You know, for safety.

Just imagine the rush of pure joy any kid would feel walking into this incredible learning lot.

 

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Jeep Kindergarten @jeep

A post shared by Jennifer Birch Pierson (@jenniferpierson11) on

In Virginia, one teacher solved the very real problem of giving students positive affirmation for a job well done. Sadly, high-fives are out of the question for the foreseeable future. But what if you didn’t have to use your hand? Michelle Clark created a simple yet extremely creative cardboard hand, for safer high-fives. Each kid has a small cardboard hand on a stick to high-five the teacher’s slightly larger hand on a stick. Hands on sticks for everyone (is a sentence I never thought I’d write!).

 

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A post shared by Michelle Clark (@cardboard_highfive_teacher) on

Michelle Clark is truly on a roll – she also brought the classic “staying up late talking to your next-door neighbor before you could afford walkie-talkies” tool to the classroom. That’s right, partner work and small group discussions are done from 6 feet away via cans-on-a-string. Really, who needs Zoom when you have Can-On-A-String™?

Can-On-A-String™: It’s Adequate

 

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A post shared by Michelle Clark (@cardboard_highfive_teacher) on

This teacher made e-learning a little more personal by giving each student a stuffed animal that sat in their otherwise empty seat during the virtual school day. Though the kids can’t be there in person, having a name-tag and fuzzy representative makes the whole experience a little more special.

This handy Dad invented a device for his wife’s classroom so students could use hand sanitizer without actually using their hands to dispense it. Simple, effective, and bonus points for excellent use of PVC pipes.

Teacher Classroom Sanitizer Hands-Free
(Facebook/Stephanie Deal)

Teachers and students are learning side-by-side, figuring out how to navigate this strange new reality. While it hasn’t been easy, it’s reassuring to see just how many teachers have figured out ways to make their classrooms both safe and exciting for their students. High hands-on-a-stick fives all around, teachers. You’re absolutely nailing it.

Special Ed Teacher Turns Truck Into Mobile Classroom for Students With Autism

truck classroom
(Twitter/Nay_EdEsp)

While parents everywhere fret about what the school year is going to look like, it’s also important to remember what teachers are going through. The extra amount of prep and precautions teachers will be undertaking to get ready for a who knows what year, compounded with the same anxieties and stresses about staying safe parents are feeling, is a tough combo. And yet, teachers will find a way, even during a global pandemic, to give everything they have to students.

A photo capturing just that has gone viral as one special ed teacher has turned her truck into a makeshift mobile classroom, and was driving two hours per day to help teach autistic students safely in-person. Teachers are meeting this moment, whether it’s through viral videos explaining COVID regulations or through helping out those in need.


This specific teacher works in Guanajuato, Mexico, and used her makeshift classroom to help autistic students with their homework. A student’s mom took the viral photo, which was of the teacher as she was going over a test to evaluate how effective distance learning had been for the child. The teacher, Nay, told a local newspaper she wanted to connect with the students to see how they were doing emotionally while acknowledging that everyone was struggling.

While the photo of Nay went viral and earned effusive praise, in a twitter response, she did defer praise and rightly pointed out that while the picture may be of her, all teachers are putting in the extra effort right now.

Many parents are worried about what this school year will be and worried about their kids falling behind. But everyone is in the same boat, as this school year will be normal for no one. And it’s important to appreciate the teachers giving it their all, whether it’s over Zoom, a remote learning plan, or in-person through a mask and face shield.

Charleston School’s ‘Gentlemen’s Club’ Teaches Boys Important Lessons

Charleston School’s ‘Gentleman’s Club’ Teaches Boys Important Lessons
(Youtube/truly)

It’s no secret that kids are information sponges. They spend every waking moment exploring, experimenting and learning about the world around them, as well as their role in it. Kids learn an enormous amount from their parents and role models at home – they learn how to behave, how to interact with other people, how to cope with stress and so many other aspects of everyday life. For some kids, however, tough home lives mean that they may not have the guidance they need to effectively navigate this complex world. Raymond Nelson, the student support specialist at Memminger Elementary in Downtown Charleston, South Carolina realized that several of his students didn’t have male role models at home. So, he decided, he could be the one to help guide them towards being the best versions of themselves.

Nelson works with many at-risk children, and keeping them on the right path is both an important part of his job and important to him personally. Nelson started a Gentlemen’s Club at his school to instill young boys with a sense of confidence, and, well – to help them act like little gentlemen. Every Wednesday, 60 of Nelson’s 5th graders show up at their elementary school dressed to the nines. Dozens of little tuxedos and suits can be spotted throughout the school, worn by these self-assured young men.

“I was thinking maybe if I have the boys dress for success,” Nelson told WCSC-TV. “When was the last time you saw someone fighting in a tuxedo?”

The Gentlemen’s Club’s motto, “Look good, feel good, do good,” helps instill in young boys just how valuable they are, and just how much their actions matter. The boys learn lessons like how to treat female peers (who, according to some of Nelson’s students, still have cooties), which helps them be more productive members of their school community.

When Nelson was a young boy, his mom encouraged him to join a similar type of club. To this day, Nelson sees the lasting impact those early lessons had on him. Nelson’s program has had such a deep impact on the behavior and self-confidence of his students, he and another man named Kenneth Joyner (a 5th-grade teacher at Nelson’s school) even started a nonprofit organization called “Boys With a Purpose”. The organization helps empower other young boys in the Charleston area to “Look good, feel good, do good” – which, to be honest, is a lifestyle we could all stand to embrace.

24-Yr-Old Former Sanitation Worker Is Headed to Harvard Law

24-Year-Old Paid for College by Collecting Trash, Now He’s Headed to Harvard
(Twitter/RehanStaton)

Most of us, at one point or another, have been told that we can do anything we set our minds to. Now, this may be true in some cases – we can learn an instrument, become a better athlete, even get a decent job, assuming we’re willing to put in an insane amount of work. Even with all of the drive and effort in the world though, there are times that success just isn’t in the cards. Or, at times, success comes after many consecutive failures which makes it even more worthy of celebration. For 24-year old Rehan Staton, the sweetness of success could not have been any more thrilling because of just how many times it felt completely out of reach.

It all started when he was just 8 years old, far earlier than any of us should have to face the harsh realities of life. Rehan’s formerly normal household fell apart when his mom left and his dad moved out of the country. Suddenly, Rehan and his brother’s lives were turned upside-down. The brothers went from private school students to not knowing with any certainty where their next meal would come from. They went from a two-parent household to their father working up to three jobs at a time to try to keep a roof over the boys’ heads. In middle school, Rehan’s grades suffered severely due to stress at home and a teacher even offered to place the bright, but overwhelmed student in remedial classes.

This was not an option for Rehan’s dad, who knew his son was more than capable of keeping up with his peers. He got his son a tutor (an aerospace engineer who volunteered to tutor Rehan for free through the local community center), and for the rest of the year, Rehan was on the Honor Roll. His academic goals were secondary to his dreams of becoming a professional boxer, but in 12th grade, Rehan experienced yet another roadblock when he injured both shoulders. The frantic senior began applying to college since he was no longer able to pursue his boxing dream, but unfortunately, nothing panned out.

Rehan began working as a garbage man, but his peers quickly realized he had bigger dreams to realize. “It was the first time in my life people were lifting me up for the sake of lifting me up and not because I was good at sports,” Rehan recalled to CNN.

Rehan’s coworkers recognized his intelligence and wanted to help him reach his full potential. Eventually, word of his bright and gifted nature made it to the son of the owner of the company where Rehan worked. The owner’s son, Brent Bates, took a liking to Rehan and brought him to meet a professor at Bowie State University. Much like everyone else who crosses Rehan’s path, the professor was extremely impressed by the young man and even appealed to the admissions board to help him gain entry to the university. The universe finally gave Rehan a bit of good news, and he was able to begin working towards his undergraduate degree. To nobody’s surprise, he maintained a 4.0 GPA. He achieved so much success that shortly into his undergraduate career, Rehan set his sights on law school.

“Throughout my entire life … all the people in my life who I was supposed to look up to were the ones who always downplayed me and made me feel bad about myself,” Rehan reflected. “I had to go to the ‘bottom’ of the social hierarchy — that’s to say formerly incarcerated sanitation workers — in order to be uplifted.”

Rehan’s coworkers weren’t the only ones fully backing his academic pursuits, Rehan’s older brother Reggie even dropped out of school to help support his family and allow his gifted brother to focus more fully on his studies. Rehan transferred to the University of Maryland for his junior and senior year, and graduated in 2018. Invigorated by his success, Rehan began working in political consulting while studying for his LSAT and applying to law school. Finally, after all of the setbacks life threw at him, Rehan was accepted to not one, but multiple distinguished schools – he starts classes at Harvard Law School this upcoming fall.

Deaf People Graciously Demo Sign Language for Swear Words and Insults

(YouTube / Cut)

The middle finger is played out. It had a good run. That time you got cut off in traffic. That one picture of Johnny Cash and basically every picture of Eminem. It just doesn’t do the trick anymore. Do they even blur it on TV? Pathetic.

Thankfully, we have other options, as a group of deaf folks have made a really entertaining video where they generously lend us some potentially useful American Sign Language. It’s all there, baby.

For when your friend spills his beer:

Dumbass

"Dumbass" in Sign Language
(YouTube / Cut)

For when a guy produces a guitar at a party and plays Oasis.

Douchebag

"Douchebag" in Sign Language
(YouTube / Cut)

For when you’re a miserable situation.

Hell

"Hell" in Sign Language
(YouTube / Cut)

For when a guy produces a guitar at a party and plays an Oasis song that isn’t Wonderwall or Champagne Supernova.

Piece of Shit

"Piece of Shit" in Sign Language
(YouTube / Cut)

When there is shit.

Shit

"Shit" in Sign Language
(YouTube / Cut)

When your kid’s toothbrush is bone dry.

Bullshit

"Bullshit" in Sign Language
(YouTube / Cut)

And oh my goodness that game where you punch someone in the arm just took on a whole new meaning.

Asshole

"Asshole" in Sign Language
(YouTube / Cut)

You can watch these swear words and more demonstrated in all their profane glory in this hilarious video from Cut.

We hope you find these of good use. Please cuss responsibly.

Watch Students At LeBron James’ School Get Tuition-Free College

I Promise Students Get Free Tuition
(Twitter/LJFamFoundation)

LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. And on a level unlike any player ever (sorry Michael) because he’s been able to use his platform to build his hometown community in a hugely positive way. The oldest students at Lebron James’ I Promise School recently found out they would be receiving four years of free college tuition (along with a free year of room and board).

The 193 11th-graders were informed of this development in a fairly dramatic fashion. They were on a college visit to Kent State University when they were told each student had an envelope under their seat. That envelope included the news of the free tuition at Kent State.

The announcement was a partnership between Kent State University and the Lebron James Family Foundation, which started the public I Promise School in 2018. The high school juniors will all receive four free years of tuition and one free year of room and board as long as they meet the university’s admission standards.

The university president was the one to announce the big reveal and told them why they were helping make college a reality for them.

“We are doing this because we know of the transformative power of a higher education and a college degree, but most of all we’re doing this because you guys have demonstrated over the past several years that you have the grit, that you have the determination, that you have the dreams to succeed,” he said.

The soaring costs of higher education have made getting a college degree a lot tougher for the at-risk youth enrolled in James’ school. This is why a move like this helps show the kids how committed you are to helping them succeed and removing the roadblocks in their path.

The kids’ parents were watching the video of the announcement live in a separate room, and burst into tears while their children cheered upon receiving the full scholarship.

“We have so many options, and I just know that so many kids in my community just don’t have many options,” James told reporters after a recent Lakers win. “So for me to be able to be in a position where I can give these kids options to decide what they want to do with their future, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.”

To stay eligible for the scholarship, students will need to maintain good grades and complete community service hours every semester.

6-Year-Old Boy With Autism Becomes Youngest Student at Oxford, Ever

Joshua Beckford
(YouTube/TEDxVienna)

Autism is many different things, and the people who are on the spectrum are often as unique as the varying levels of autism itself.

Enter 13-year-old Joshua Beckford. At the age of two he had mastered reading and by three was speaking Japanese. While many professionals misdiagnosed certain forms of Autism early on as learning disabilities, cases like Joshua show it can be that exact opposite. So when Joshua’s father Knox heard that Oxford University offered a program for gifted children between 8-18, he signed up his then 6-year-old prodigy to see if he’d make the cut. He did, becoming the youngest student ever at the prestigious institution.

Joshua has what’s commonly referred to as high functioning autism (HFA). While HFA isn’t a medical term or official diagnosis, it’s a term used to describe those on the spectrum without an intellectual disability, but who may suffer difficulties in other areas such as social interaction and emotional expression.

In recent years it’s been uncovered that some of the greatest minds of history would have likely been autistic if the medical community in their time had known what we do today. Albert Einstein, Michelangelo, Mozart, and many more all presented signs and symptoms we now know to be found on the spectrum.

Although he’s already accomplished more than most of us could ever dream to achieve, Joshua now dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon and shows no signs of resting on his laurels. He also serves as the face of the National Autistic Society’s Black and Minority campaign, highlighting the challenges minorities face when attempting to find support and services relating to autism. In 2017, Joshua was named one of the 30 most remarkable people in the world with Autism. In January of this year, he was appointed an ambassador Boys Mentoring Advocacy Network, an organization that provides educational opportunities for children in Africa.

The brilliant Mr. Beckford is also penning a children’s book on Egypt, a locale the young scholar has been fascinated by for much of his life.

A genius, a role model, and an example for those young and old, Joshua Beckford is an inspiration and a reminder that each person is unique. Finding ways to highlight and bring out that individualism is often the key to fully discovering an individual’s best self and helping them to share it with the world.

Assistant Principal Lays on Ground to Help Boy With Autism

Mr. Smith and LJ
(Facebook/Steph Compton)

Being a teacher or school administrator takes a special set of skills. A passion for educating children is important. Patience is essential. But perhaps the most important traits one can possess are empathy and compassion. Those were both on full display recently when a photograph of an Ohio assistant principal went viral for all the right reasons.

Students at Garfield Elementary in Marion, Ohio were preparing to head home for the day, but an issue caused their bus to be delayed. It’s enough to make any youngster frustrated, but 8-year-old LJ was particularly perturbed. LJ is a third-grader who lives with Down syndrome and autism, but his mom Steph says he’s usually happy and outgoing, telling local affiliate WCMH “If he’s not smiling or laughing…which is most of the time, there’s something really wrong.” LJ was laying down on the sidewalk and was understandably exhausted from the long day.

So newly appointed administrator Mr. Smith, who had previously been a teacher in the district, saw an opportunity to get on his students’ level… literally. Smith dropped down to the concrete and laid down next to LJ while they waited. Another Garfield educator snapped a photo, sending it to LJ’s mom who later posted it to her Facebook page.

The post has since been shared hundreds of times, with several local parents commenting on how awesome of an impact such a small gesture can truly make.

LJ’s mom Steph sharing in an interview “It’s really awesome to know from a parent’s standpoint, that there are people that care that much about your child. To get down on the ground, and lay on the ground with them to make sure that they’re alright.”

Superintendent Uses Bonus to Pay Students’ College Application Fees

Superintendent Grant Rivera
(Marietta City Schools)

Applying to college is a huge pain in the butt, and I’m not even talking about the years of prepping for the SATs.

There’s choosing the schools you want to target, working with teachers and guidance counselors to figure out your odds, and then actually filling out the long, time-consuming documentation needed to actually put your hat in the ring for each school.

Did I mention the application fees? Every school requires a fee for each application, and this can limit the number of colleges and universities a student might put in for.

Thanks to the generosity of their superintendent, students in Georgia’s Marietta School district won’t have to worry about that.

Grant Rivera, the superintendent of the district, recently received a $10,000 bonus for satisfactory performance. Rivera, who has held the position since 2016, is eligible for a bonus every three years, and this was his first time capturing the award. But he’s not interested in keeping it for himself. Instead, he’s giving it back and using it to pay those pesky application fees that might otherwise deter students at Marietta High School from applying to college.

Those fees are usually somewhere in the $70 and 90$ range, according to Kelly Herrero, Marietta High’s IB Middle Years Program coordinator. That’s no small thing, especially if you’re applying to 3-5 schools, and she appreciates what Superintendent Rivera is doing.

“Any opportunity for these kids to have someone invest in them in this way goes to the theme to what Marietta, I think, is all about,” she told Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Rivera said that he expects about 150-200 of the schools 500 seniors to apply to college. He also pledged to use any leftover bonus money to pay for bus tours of Georgia colleges, to better help his students choose which schools they might want to attend.

“My hope is that it’s an incentive for kids to do the right thing,” Rivera said.

Either way, the generous educator is certainly setting the right example.