A setback that turned out to be a blessing in disguise for new teacher Chelsi Amos
As a first-time teacher, Chelsi Amos was looking forward to everything a teaching career entails. A setback led to an incredible encounter Chelsi and her students will not soon forget. Here is her story.
Ever since I can remember, school has been where I felt most comfortable. Teachers welcomed me every morning with smiling faces and made me feel like I could succeed in their class if I tried my hardest. My parents, being supportive and loving role models in my life, instilled a love for learning in me at a young age.
I was told, “If you do your best in school, you can grow up to be anything you want.” At the time, images of being the President, dolphin trainer, doctor, singer, and a ranch owner floated through my head. How was I suppose to choose when there were so many options?
At the age of 22 and a recent graduate from Penn State University, I am proud to say that I am a first grade teacher at Desert Spirit Elementary School in Glendale, AZ. The journey to AZ was a memorable one to say the least. My fiance and I packed up the UHaul and loaded my 1996 Toyota Paseo onto the trailer behind and traveled 2,158 miles in four days through the Mountains, Plains, Deserts, and a whole lot of corn fields!
Broken car and a meeting with Wally
We were fortunate to have family waiting for us upon arriving in near record breaking heat (112 degrees!) Once unpacked and settled into the new apartment, it was time to take my car in and get fixed because in AZ, if the “check engine” is on, the car will not pass emissions and therefore cannot get registered. I took advice from my grandparents who live only 20 minutes away and went to a Firestone to see if they could shed some light and help me out with my car.
In my mind, I was hoping they would tell me that it was a simple fix and I would be out of there paying only a few hundred dollars and my problem would be solved. I needed a new car eventually but the hope was that I could make it work until I had the time and funds to find something that I liked. My grandparents told me the man that ran and owned the place was a very nice man who would treat me fairly. I had no idea what impact he would have on me and my future students.
After 3 hours of waiting for a phone call, Wally (the owner) gave me a call and told me that he had some bad news. Instantly my heart dropped. He explained that there were numerous problems with my vehicle and it would cost me $500 to fix the immediate problem but there were other things that needed to be fixed in the near future. My mind was racing. I needed a car to get to and from work. If my car breaks down in this summer heat, I am in big trouble. I am going to have to either put a bunch of money into this old car or find a way to get a new one very soon. Big decisions had to be made soon and I only just arrived a few days prior.
Wally told me he would like to chat with me more in person so I came into Firestone with a heavy heart. He explained to me that if it were up to him, he would not put the money into the car. Gently he let me know that there were too many things wrong and it would cost me more to fix the car than what it was worth. On the verge of tears, my decision had been made. I had to sell my car and get a new one. (For those people who have gone through the car buying process, it can be stressful and overwhelming and quite frankly, a bit scary.)
Request for class roster
Wally could tell by my expression that I was very upset. He asked me what I do for a living and I explained that I had just moved to the area because I accepted a first grade teaching position in the Glendale Elementary School District. He smiled and asked me “How many students do you have? I want to know a count for boys and girls.” I was a little bit confused. Why does he need to know? I wasn’t even sure off the top of my head. I had only just arrived in AZ let alone didn’t know my class roster from memory.
“I am not sure. Last time I checked I had 22 students but students are still enrolling. Why do you ask?”
He smiled again and said, “I would like to make a donation to your classroom. Call me once you have talked to your principal and found out how many students you have and let me know. Wouldn’t it be nice if each of your students came to school with a brand new backpack?”
I stared at him in surprise. Was this really happening? He just told me my car wasn’t worth fixing and now he is going to buy a backpack for each of my students?
“Are you sure? Oh my goodness thank you! I can’t tell you how incredible that would be.” Filled with mixed emotions I shook his hand and teared up. Such an act of kindness is hard to come by. After more words of thanks, I asked him how much I owed him for the diagnostic on my car (I was told it would be around $120). “Don’t worry about it. You have a great day,” he said with another smile.
I was so floored that I probably looked at him for a moment in utter shock. After regaining my footing, I thanked him again and said that I would be in touch with the numbers.
The emotions of the day swirled around me like a tornado. A horrible situation was completely turned around by a simple act of generosity and kindness of a stranger.
Waiting in anticipation
Immediately I went home and emailed my principal with the exciting news. She returned the email almost immediately with the same excitement I felt and information I needed.
I called Wally the next day and told him the make-up of my classroom. He remembered the conversation immediately and told me that he would relay the information to his wife and they would see what they could do. Many more thank you’s later, I hung up the phone feeling as though I was on top of the world.
A few days went by without hearing from Wally. I felt that this act of kindness might have been a kind gesture but nothing would have come from it. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Wally made a difference
I was in a meeting during an In-Service training for new teachers when he called. He left a voicemail saying that he would like me to call him as soon as possible. On my break I rushed outside to return the call and was welcomed on the other end of the line with a happy voice telling me that he has 6 large boxes in his office waiting for me to pick up. I couldn’t have been more elated. I told him I would be there that evening to pick them up.
When I arrived, I realized how right he had been. It took about 10 minutes to load up the car with the backpacks that he had provided. Each backpack was full of school supplies and a beanie baby (so that each kid would have someone to read to everyday).
With more tears, I gave Wally a hug and thanked him for this LARGE contribution to my classroom. Simple words were not enough but that’s all I had to give. With gratitude in my heart, I drove away feeling that I was the luckiest teacher in the world to have met such a caring man.
After many trips to my car, I was able to unload the backpacks into my classroom and arrange them in a way where each student could pick out their bag for Meet the Teacher Night.
Smiles on Meet the Teacher Night
Meet the Teacher Night came and went in a flash but the faces of the students who received their bags will stick in my mind forever.
“Mom look! There are new crayons inside!”
“I get to have a NEW backpack?”
“There’s so many to choose from!”
“Wow! Thank you so much!”
“This is mine? To keep?”
Many parents explained to me that they had not purchased items for their child yet for school and this donation meant the world to their child and to them.
This small act of kindness showed my students that they are cared for not only by me and their family, but by the community.
This small act of kindness touched the hearts of my students.
This small act of kindness has directly impacted the lives of my students and families.
To Wally Moreland and his loving family, I have this to say:
Thank you for taking that extra step and helping out a group of families and children in such a pivotal way. Thank you for showing me that there are still wonderful people in the world who care about others and are willing to take steps to ensure that kindness spreads like wildfire. Lastly, thank you for teaching me that even the smallest thing can mean the world to a child.
My mentor teacher Debbie Marsh once told me, “If you put good into the world, sometimes a little bit will come back to you.”
She couldn’t have been more right.
Chelsi Amos is a first-grade teacher in Glendale, Arizona. She is a recent graduate from Penn State University where she received a B.S in Childhood and Early Adolescent Education. For enquiries on the article, please contact us.