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Meet Mr. Joffee, fourth-grade teacher and living proof that teachers change lives.

Writing about my fourth-grade teacher led me back to my childhood neighborhood for coffee with Mr. Joffee.

Meet Mr. Joffee, fourth-grade teacher and living proof that teachers change lives.

A few months ago, I shared a story on Upworthy about how my fourth-grade teacher changed my life.

He gifted me with a lifelong love of learning, and he was a patient and compassionate mentor during one of the most difficult times of my childhood.

After the story came out, I was surprised to see so many shares, comments, messages, and emails from people who knew my teacher personally.


Photo provided by Tina Plantamura, used with permission.

Monte Joffee is remembered by many of his students as a teacher who inspired them, no matter how long it’s been since they were in his class.

Many people posted about him, and many more encouraged me to reconnect with my teacher.

Those who had seen him or worked with him recently had wonderful things to say about what he’s done as an educator. Those who, like me, had him as a teacher when they were young shared their memories of his classroom and the unique way he inspired a love for learning.

To my surprise, the morning after the essay was published, I checked my messages and found a heartfelt note from Mr. Joffee himself.

He did remember me (I didn’t think he would!). He wrote to me while he was attending a conference about education for global citizenship. It was great to hear (as I suspected) that he was still very much involved in education. Others who knew him left comments on Facebook and told me about his accomplishments.

I asked Mr. Joffee if we could get together.

Since I left my old neighborhood in Queens, I have only come back to visit a few times. I suggested that he choose a location since I hadn’t been there in years, and he chose a coffee shop right around the corner from the apartment I grew up in. I remember going there a few times with my parents.

I can’t say that Mr. Joffee looked much like he did 31 years ago, but I’m sure he couldn’t say that about me either!

Since the last time I saw him, his career had extended well beyond being an elementary school teacher; his dedication to students and education grew exponentially since my last day at P.S. 69 in 1985.

While he was teaching, Mr. Joffee saw many issues in urban education that he knew he could do something to help solve. Eventually, he left the public school to cofound the Renaissance School (which later became the Renaissance Charter School) in 1993.

Mr. Joffee’s new school was right across the street from where we were sitting.

He invited me to take a tour, and it was exactly the type of school I would have imagined he could create. There were so many open spaces. There was so much emphasis on creativity. We carefully walked through and greeted the staff and students who were there for the summer programs, and every child stopped to say hello to us. Every child knew they were important and that they belonged.

Andrew Ronan, a former classmate of mine, might have said it best after reading my story. He was a teaching artist at Renaissance for a while, and he wrote to me: “On the first day I walked in I felt like I was back in my 4th grade classroom. There was so much positive and productive work going on, students and teachers were on a first name basis and learning together. Mr. Joffee had a profound influence on me and my classmates many years ago, it was amazing to see that impact magnified to an entire school.”

Of course, Mr. Joffee furthered his own education, too.

When he finished his studies at Teachers College at Columbia University, he became Dr. Joffee.

Meet Dr. Joffee! All photos used with Dr. Joffee's permission.

Gonzalo Obelleiro, Ph.D., told me: “Monte genuinely loves people. He consistently shows interest in individual persons, in the unique point of view they have to offer, regardless of whether they write Ph.D. after their name, the jargon they use, or the shoes they wear. As a younger scholar I often felt the pressure to have to prove my worth amongst colleagues, but Monte always treated me as an equal. Despite his superior knowledge and experience—or because of it, I am sure he would say—he is the perennial student, always excited to learn even from his own students and juniors.”

Dr. Joffee (who insists that I call him Monte from now on) is retired now, but his passion for education burns brighter than ever.

He is working on a national K-12 education reform proposal called "The Will to Achieve." Monte believes this proposal will revolutionize American education by re-welcoming parents, communities, supporters, and entrepreneurs into the education tent. It will enable students to become autodidactic learners.

"The Will to Achieve" will also rebuild the schoolhouse in communities where there has been an uneasy match between the people and the school.

When I asked Monte to estimate how many students he had inspired throughout his career, we were both surprised when the number added up to about 7,600.

What if even a third of those students went on to make the same type of impact he made? Do teachers know how many lives they touch and how many people they inspire to do just as they do? Do they know that the children in front of them will remember those compassionate moments and valuable life lessons when they become adults? Do they know that they aren’t just teaching — they are building character, sculpting hope, and helping to raise young men and women?

An African proverb says “it takes a village to raise a child.” Teachers like Monte prove that sometimes, the greatest inspiration can come from just one person in that village.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Terence Power / TikTok

A video of a busker in Dublin, Ireland singing "You've Got a Friend in Me" to a young boy with autism is going viral because it's just so darn adorable. The video was filmed over a year ago by Terence Power, the co-host of the popular "Talking Bollox Podcast."

It was filmed before face masks were required, so you can see the boy's beautiful reaction to the song.

Power uploaded it to TikTok because he had just joined the platform and had no idea the number of lives it would touch. "The support on it is unbelievable. I posted it on my Instagram a while back and on Facebook and the support then was amazing," he told Dublin Live.

"But I recently made TikTok and said I'd share it on that and I'm so glad I did now!" he continued.

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True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Each year that I teach the book "1984" I turn my classroom into a totalitarian regime under the guise of the "common good."

I run a simulation in which I become a dictator. I tell my students that in order to battle "Senioritis," the teachers and admin have adapted an evidence-based strategy, a strategy that has "been implemented in many schools throughout the country and has had immense success." I hang posters with motivational quotes and falsified statistics, and provide a false narrative for the problem that is "Senioritis."

Photo by Diana Leygerman, used with permission.

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via Ken Lund / Flickr

The dark mountains that overlook Provo, Utah were illuminated by a beautiful rainbow-colored "Y" on Thursday night just before 8 pm. The 380-foot-tall "Y" overlooks the campus of Brigham Young University, a private college owned by the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), commonly known as Mormons.

The display was planned by a group of around 40 LGBT students to mark the one-year anniversary of the university sending out a letter clarifying its stance on homosexual behavior.

"One change to the Honor Code language that has raised questions was the removal of a section on 'Homosexual Behavior.' The moral standards of the Church did not change with the recent release of the General Handbook or the updated Honor Code, " the school's statement read.

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