These students surprised their favorite teacher with an incredibly meaningful gift.

Everyone has a story about an educator that shaped their life in an important way.

Think about your favorite teacher in high school. Was is the English instructor who wrote meticulous notes in the margins of your essays? The math teacher who tutored you in geometry every Thursday at lunch? The history teacher who was so passionate about their subject they'd show up to class dressed as important historical figures?

For the students at Valley Christian High School in Arizona, that person was Joe Lara, a Spanish teacher who some students saw not just as an instructor, but a father figure.


"Throughout the year Mr. Lara has been such a great blessing to me," one student wrote on Instagram. "He sees potential in all of his students, and he has seen things in me that I haven’t even seen in myself. He’s believed in me at times when I didn’t believe in myself."

When Lara announced that he was leaving the school, his students knew they had to do something special to thank him for everything he'd done for them.

It's always difficult when a teacher you love leaves. And sometimes, when you think about them years later, you wish you'd done something to show them just how much you cared. Lara's students? They won't have that problem. On his last day (which also happened to be his birthday!) they gave him a surprise he'll never forget. One that's so big even Michael Jordan's brand tweeted about it.

Have you guessed what the surprise was yet? If you thought "A pair of pristine Air Jordans," you're absolutely right! According to his students, Lara has wanted a pair of the shoes for over a decade. But considering how expensive the shoes are (especially in comparison to how much teachers typically make) he could never justify the expense. So everyone chipped in to buy them as a way of saying "thank you." The heartwarming moment was captured on video and has now been viewed millions of times.

Are you ready for this? (Yes, I'm absolutely referencing Jock Jams. Why don't you hit the play button on this baby before you watch the video below. Really, get yourself pumped up!)

It's hard to tell who's happiest here — the teacher who's unwrapping a pair of 2012 retro Jordans, or the students anxiously waiting for Lara's reaction.

"I need scissors," Lara says as he's unwrapping the gift.

"No you don't," students scream back. Then Lara uncovers the box.

"No way," he exclaims shortly before being overcome with emotion. "You didn't!"

You know what, though? They absolutely did. And when he sees those shoes for the first time, the entire room descends into howls, with Lara leading the noise.

And they weren't the only ones feeling it.

This story is sweet, but it's also an important reminder of the value teachers bring.

Our favorite teachers don't just recite from a textbook. They don't just prepare us for tests. They care, they listen, and they project their passion. They mentor, they counsel, and they encourage us to become the adults we want to be. They give us the tools to make our dreams come true. And yet, too often, they're undervalued. In recent weeks, teachers have walked out of their classrooms to protest that they don't have the resources to do their jobs.

As one Oklahoma educator pointed out in a viral Facebook post, teachers don't have enough books, their classes are too large, and sometimes the low pay can force qualified teachers to leave the profession.

Teachers like Lara are rare, but they shouldn't be. And no one will disagree that kids deserve the very best. That's why we must all support educators. Because the difference they make can't be measured or quantified.  And hey, if we get a video like this every day, you won't find me complaining.

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Working parents have always had the challenge of juggling career and kids. But during the pandemic, that juggling act feels like a full-on, three-ring circus performance, complete with clowns and rings of fire and flying elephants.

With millions of kids doing virtual learning, our routines and home lives have taken a dramatic shift. Some parents are trying to navigate working from home at the same time, some are trying to figure out who's going to watch over their kids while they work outside the home, and some are scrambling to find a new job because theirs got eliminated due to the pandemic. In addition to the logistical challenges, parents also have to deal with the emotional ups and downs of their kids, who are also dealing with an uncertain and altered reality, while also managing their own existential dread.

It's a whole freaking lot right now, honestly.

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Photo courtesy of Lily Read

Now more than ever, teachers are America's unsung heroes. They are taking on the overwhelming task of not only educating our children but finding creative and effective ways to do it in an unpredictable virtual learning environment.

Lily Read and Justin Bernard, two Massachusetts educators from one of the most diverse public high schools in the U.S. (over 25 different languages are spoken in the student body!), feel ready to meet the challenges of this unprecedented school year. Their goal: find ways to make virtual education "as joyful as possible" to help support teenagers during quarantine.

"Our school is very economically, racially, and linguistically diverse," said Read, "which means meeting the needs for all those students is incredibly complex." That wide range of diversity means that they spend a lot of time in professional development, preparing to meet students where they are. This summer, educators in their district spent weeks learning everything from how to provide emotional and social support via virtual platforms, to meeting 504 plans and Individual Educational Plans for disabled students virtually, to mastering the various online programs necessary for instruction.

Bernard, now in his fifth year of teaching, also coaches the high school football team. Prior to the pandemic, there were clear expectations for student athletes, with clear goals and incentives to keep their grades up. Now, Bernard is concerned that student athletes will begin to fall through the cracks without the structure of physically going to school each day, and he is on a mission to do everything he can to keep that from happening.

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Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

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