How A Teacher Helped My Son—and Me—Aim Higher

Matthew Rodriguez and sonThis blog was originally posted on Impatient Optimists.

Several years ago, I was taking daily flights between Minneapolis and Chicago, all because of my child’s first-grade teacher. Due to some family troubles, my son, Mateo, was living in Illinois, while I worked in Minneapolis. Mateo’s teacher, Mrs. Woods, called me because she was having trouble getting Mateo to come to school every day.

Now, as the President of the Illinois PTA, I often hear the phrase “high expectations” thrown around, but I saw what that truly means by interacting with Mrs. Woods.

Once I responded to her phone call, she wouldn’t let go for the two years she taught my son. When Mateo wouldn’t complete homework, she would call. When he would act out in class, she would call. Mateo had a week of completed classwork? Positive phone call. There came a point when I realized, not only was Mrs. Woods holding my son to high standards, but she was holding me to them, too. So there I was, taking daily flights to ensure my child was getting the support his teacher said he needed—I’m lucky I worked for an airline!

For two years, my understanding of what it meant to hold my son to high standards grew. Like Mrs. Woods, I learned not to accept Mateo’s excuses; maybe he could get more time or additional help, but he was always held to the same high standard as others.

This Teacher Appreciation Week, I am honored to share the story of my son, who, in spite of his home struggles, learning disability, and other obstacles, is now in college studying communications due to the efforts of teachers like Mrs. Woods.

As a parent, I knew I wanted my son to go to college, but I had doubts about how he could get there. This lines up with recent findings in a report by Learning Heroes, an organization that provides tools and resources for parents to navigate the changes in the classroom. The report found that parents’ expectations for their children, especially among families of color, are high, but the path to earning a college degree is less clear.

When the obstacles for parents feel overwhelming, I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there are teachers like Mrs. Woods in our schools. Getting so involved in school because of her and my son led me to the PTA and a lifelong commitment to fight for all children.

Teachers today are doing so much more than teaching subjects—they’re creating pathways for students and families, and we owe them our gratitude.


Matthew Rodriguez is president of the Illinois PTA.

7 Ways Teachers Are Using GoFundMe to Make a Difference

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we wanted to celebrate seven teachers who embody the GoFundMe spirit of helping people and spreading empathy. We’re always amazed and delighted to see the creative, inspiring ways educators use our platform, and we think you’ll be impressed, too.

  1. iPads in the classroom to help ESL students learn Englishgofundme1

Mrs. Ellis teaches English as a Second Language in a low-income school in Denver, Colo. She recognized the huge impact having iPads in her classroom could have on her students’ progress in learning to read and write English.

With no funding directly available, Mrs. Ellis turned to a GoFundMe campaign to equip her classroom with the latest technology.

With the help of 20 community members, Mrs. Ellis hit her goal and purchased the iPads. She says, “The kids were so happy to finally get their classroom iPads and use them every day for new learning! Thank you to all the donors who made this possible!”

  1. Getting kids the books they really want to readgofundme2

Stephanie Wilson’s students are ready to develop a lifetime love of reading. There’s just one hitch: it’s a challenge for these underprivileged kids to access the books they really want to read.

That’s where this Champaign, Ill. teacher is taking charge: Stephanie has started a GoFundMe campaign to buy the books her students can’t wait to read, including Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Geronimo Stilton, and Captain Underpants.

In her campaign, Stephanie says, “As a teacher I spend a lot of my own money for things in my classroom and I need help! I want to provide books that my students want to read so that they will learn to love reading! I can’t express in words how thankful I am to those of you that choose to donate!”

  1. A field trip that will create lifelong memories

gofundme3Stella Kim is a special education science teacher who wants to give her students something they rarely experience: a memorable field trip away from the classroom where they can learn, bond, and enjoy themselves.

When Stella’s Oakland, Calif. school denied her request for the field trip because of lack of funds, she took matters into her own hands and started a GoFundMe campaign.

In just 17 days, 39 donors raised $1,585—exceeding Stella’s goal. Now the field trip is booked, and these students have an exciting field trip to look forward to.

  1. An after-school “Running 4 Change” program for at-risk youth

gofundme4Two years ago, special education teacher Isaias Franco started an after-school running program called “Running 4 Change.”

The program lived up to its name: the collective GPA of Isaias’s students increased by 24%, truancy decreased by 15%, and they successfully ran the Seattle Rock & Roll half marathon.

Now Isaias and his student runners are hoping to race in the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon on June 5. They’ve raised over $2,000 so far and are hoping to hit their goal of $10,000.

  1. Learning leadership skills on week-long trip to Yosemitegofundme5

Sarah Gzesh wants take her students on an ambitious trip to fulfil her Hayward, Calif. school’s mission: to develop leadership skills in all students as they prepare for college.

On a week-long trip to Yosemite, 40 high school juniors and seniors will learn to give back by volunteering at the national park and increase their appreciation of the natural world—all while taking a break from constantly checking their phones.

In just 10 days, community members stepped up and fully funded this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

  1. First grade trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Parkgofundme6

Lauren Brill and Jennifer Valenzuela spent a month teaching kindergartners and first graders about rainforest and African savanna animals, so it’s only natural they’d want to take the kids to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to see some critters up close.

The $15 entrance fee and travel costs, however, are out of reach for many of the students’ families, a large number of which are low-income.

That’s why Lauren and Jennifer turned to GoFundMe. In just a month, they hit their goal, thanks to the generous donations of community members. We hope these lucky kids have a wild time at the zoo!

  1. Stephanie’s Science Librarygofundme7

Stephanie Sample is working hard to make sure her classroom is place where students can be exposed to all the possibilities that learning science can offer.

That’s why she wants her students to have a vibrant science library where they can explore topics at their leisure.

To say her GoFundMe campaign for this library was successful is an understatement: “Woke up this morning pretty emotional seeing the generosity of SO many people towards my GoFundMe! I have to continue to add money and items to my list due to amazing contributions (which is just going to make my classroom even more amazing with more books, plants, animals and lab equipment!) My heart is ready to explode!”


GoFundMe is a proud partner of PTA Teacher Appreciation Week 2016.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week 2016!

2016 TAW GFM_FB_IG Post 1National PTA Teacher Appreciation Week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s a time to celebrate teachers—like myself—for their hard work, dedication and commitment to our children and their success. Every day teachers touch the lives of millions of children and change them for the better. They are real life superheroes.

This year, we have joined forces with GoFundMe to give back to teachers and be a superhero for them. If you start a GoFundMe “Thank A Teacher” fundraising campaign by May 8, GoFundMe will make a matching donation of $100 to eligible campaigns that benefit teachers and students.

But it doesn’t stop there. You can celebrate and #ThankATeacher with some of these ideas:

With your help, this will be the best Teacher Appreciation Week! Enjoy this video with NEA’s President Lily Eskelsen García and myself.

Why Teachers Deserve Our Praise and Our Support

This week has been designated Teacher Appreciation Week, in honor of teachers and the important contributions they make to ensure every child succeeds in school and beyond.

While our public education system has changed a lot over the years, two factors remain—teachers are essential to student growth and achievement, and it is vital that they have our support.

Check out the infographic below on teachers and the importance of family engagement in education and family-school partnerships. Don’t forget to visit PTA.org/ThankATeacher for additional resources.

2015 TAW_Infographic_v6


Heidi May Wilson is the media relations manager at National PTA.

Why Teachers Matter To This Gold Medal Gymnast

SML-9338-CREDIT-Renee_ParenteauWhile I always enjoyed learning, I admit I wasn’t always the most comfortable at school. I never truly felt that I fit in with the other kids. I was very shy and tiny with this huge hair I had no idea what to do with. I didn’t wear make-up (didn’t really know how). I was a bookworm of sorts, reading for hours on end then jumping up to tumble for the rest of the day. I was intimidated by the ease that most other kids seem to have on a daily basis with raising their hands and answering tough questions. I was happy just to take the test quietly. But I did love the work and the feeling of accomplishment I had when I finished a big project or a tough paper.

And I loved my teachers. There were certainly a few that have stood out over the years. The teacher that somehow knew exactly what to say or do to get the best from me. The PE teacher that realized I couldn’t run a mile in less than 10 minutes but gave me a moment to shine on the makeshift balance beam. There were the teachers that brought life to a subject that would typically put you to sleep.

As a professor, my father made sure that from the time we were little, my sister and I didn’t shy away from math and science. He saw that too many times in his courses. He wanted his girls to approach numbers unafraid, to know that we could do or be anything we wanted as long as we were willing to work hard. As a physics professor, he helped me understand how math and the principles of physics truly related to my life……and particularly my sport.

A great teacher can change your life. A great teacher goes beyond what’s written on the page and helps you understand why it matters. A great teacher forces you to think on your feet and think for yourself. A great teacher gives you confidence in your abilities and makes you eager to learn more each and every day.

So to all the great teachers out there, and especially to those who have touched my life, THANK YOU for all that you do each and every day. It’s a struggle day in and day out, but know that what you do matters. It matters today, it matters tomorrow, and it matters 10 years from now. Keep it going and keep up the great work!!


Shannon Miller is the most decorated American gymnast in history and is the only female athlete inducted into the U.S. Olympics Hall of Fame – twice! Her tally of five medals at the 1992 Olympics was the most won by a U.S. athlete. At the 1996 Games, she led the “Magnificent Seven” to the U.S. Women’s first ever Team Gold and captured Gold on the Balance Beam for the first time for any American gymnast.

Get Ready for Teacher Appreciation Week and #ThankATeacher

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! Every year, we give thanks to all of the teachers who have a made a positive impact on our lives. We also invite you to take part in our #ThankATeacher Social Media Challenge!

Watch this video from National PTA President Otha Thornton and National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen García as they recognize the work of outstanding teachers and welcome you to join us for this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week celebration!

Video

This is the perfect time to thank our teachers with little tokens of appreciation such as thank you cards, sweet classroom treats, arts & crafts gifts and more.

Here’s how you can celebrate teachers this week:

Let our teachers know how much we appreciate them for all of their hardwork and dedication. Check out our website to learn more info about the challenge activities and encourage your friends and family to participate!


Catherine Llamido is the digital communications specialist at National PTA.