11 times teachers totally blew us away with love for their students.

If children are our future, what does that make teachers?

I think we'd all agree that the people in charge of teaching the next generation are pretty important. Yet educators are still under-appreciated and underpaid.

Thankfully, that doesn't stop them from being amazing.


Not a day goes by that we don't hear an incredible story of a teacher going way above and beyond for her students. They pay for supplies out of their own pockets. They work extra hours to help kids who are falling behind.

And that's not even the half of it.

Here are 11 times teachers completely blew us away with their creativity, generosity, and passion for the job.

1. A gym teacher got the whole class cheering a boy with cerebral palsy.

GIF from Simon Curran/YouTube.

It was race day at Colonial Hills Elementary School. Matt Woodrum, who suffers from cerebral palsy, wanted to run, but he quickly fell behind and began to struggle.

John Blaine, his gym teacher, jogged up to him to offer some encouragement, rather than pull him to the side.

Pretty soon, the whole class was trailing Matt as he ran, with John leading the cheers as they all crossed the finish line together.

Warning: Watching the full video may cause a severe case of the cries.

2. These teachers transformed their students' lockers into literary works of art.

Photo by Poma Magician/Flickr.

Teachers at Biloxi Junior High spent one summer painting over an entire hall of lockers, decorating each like the book spine of a famous literary work, including a few modern classics they knew students would like.

They wanted to give the kids something fun to look at and get them pumped up about reading.

"We love the students here and it brings interest and gets them excited about coming to school," one teacher told WLOX.

3. This kindergarten teacher asks her kids two important questions every single morning.

Image from "The Ellen Show."

Sonya Romero teaches kindergarten in a poverty-stricken area of Albuquerque, New Mexico. When her kids show up in the morning, first she asks, "Have you eaten today?" Then, "Do you need anything to wear?"

She helps out with extra clothes, snacks, and basic care for every kid — out of her own pocket.

"We usually spend about the first hour of our morning getting ready for the day," she told "The Ellen Show."

4. This biology teacher wears wacky outfits to get her students excited to learn about the human body.

Image from Debby Heerkens, used with permission.

It can definitely be a challenge to get kids to pay attention to an important lesson. That's why Debby Heerkens, a biology teacher in the Netherlands, stood on a table during an anatomy lesson and stripped off her clothes.

Underneath? An anatomically accurate spandex suit featuring all the muscles of the body. And another one beneath that showing bone structure.

Her method might have been a little odd, but I'm sure her students didn't forget that lesson for a long time.

5. This gym teacher got his kids to exercise by breaking out the "Whip/Nae Nae."

Image from Jared Paschall/YouTube.

Jason Paschall, a gym teacher at Harvest Elementary School in Alabama, needed a fun way to get his students moving and building good exercise habits.

So he put on their favorite song and figured out how to incorporate some extra cardio into the routine. The results? Hilarious, adorable, and a great workout!

He even filmed it and put it on YouTube so other teachers around the country could use the routine.

6. One of his students was bullied, so he read a gay fable to the whole class.

Omar Currie, a third-grade teacher from North Carolina, overheard some of his students calling one boy "woman" and "gay." So he sat them all down and read the famous and controversial "King & King," a children's fairy tale that depicts a same-sex relationship.

Omar wasn't thinking about starting a controversy. He just wanted the kids to think more carefully about how other people feel.

"The moral is to treat people well, no matter who they are," he told The Huffington Post.

7. A sex-ed teacher wasn't allowed to talk about condoms ... so he talked about socks instead.

Always wear a sock. Photo by Mark/Flickr.

Sanford Johnson was in the middle of sex-ed training when the instructors told him he wasn't allowed to talk about proper condom use.

"No problem," he thought. And so he made this video to teach kids how to properly put on a sock if they were to ever "be engaged in a sock activity."

Safety first, kids. Here's the excellent lesson in its entirety.

8. Chris Ulmer compliments all of his special ed students each and every morning.

Image from Latest News/YouTube.

Chris teaches special education at a school in Jacksonville, Florida, and he says sometimes the kids can feel like outcasts. So he starts every day by showering each student with genuine compliments.

"I noticed the kids were always more motivated, happier, and better-behaved on [the days that began with affirmations]. So we started doing it every day," he told ABC News.

Um, I think we'd all love it if our days started like that. Kudos to Chris for giving a little extra love to some kids who really need it.

9. One of her kids told her she couldn't understand him because she was white. So she changed her entire approach.

Photo by Anthony Easton/Flickr.

Emily Elizabeth Smith, a fifth-grade elementary teacher from Texas, recently accepted a big-time teaching award. In her acceptance speech, she talked about a moment that changed her forever.

"Things changed for me the day when, during a classroom discussion, one of my kids bluntly told me I couldn't understand because I was a white lady," Smith said. "I had to agree with him." She says she went home and cried.

From then on, she made some big changes. Together, they read Langston Hughes. They studied Latino culture. They talked about the crisis in Syria. They explored ideas that reflected a more diverse and global curriculum.

She was already a good teacher, but her willingness to admit her own shortcomings turned her into a great one.

10. These brave teachers surprised their students with an amazing flash mob of "Don't Stop Believin'."

GIF from Ryan Radford/YouTube.

Being an awesome teacher doesn't always have to be so serious. Take this group from Walnut Grove Secondary School, who put on a fabulous rendition of the "Glee" version of "Don't Stop Believin'."

Their dance moves (and their enthusiasm) are actually really impressive, and the kids absolutely gobble it up. It's a must-watch.

11. This teacher literally crosses rivers to get to her students each day.

Image from GMA News and Public Affairs/YouTube.

Elizabeth Miranda of the Philippines might just take the cake for being the most dedicated teacher ever. Each and every school day, she walks two hours through jungle and crosses five rivers just to reach the students in Sitio Barogonte, an extremely remote village.

And you thought your commute was bad.

She's the only one close enough to be their teacher, so she had to find a way to make it work. And she has.

Let's give it up for the teachers, huh?

There are so many who will never make it on a list like this or to the front page of the Internet with some brilliant act of heroism. But just showing up day in and day out and dedicating themselves to helping kids get the education they deserve is more than heroic enough.

Pass these stories along and help our teacher friends know that their hard work is appreciated.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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