Nothing screams, “Make 2018 your best year yet,” better than stories of kindness in and around the classroom. Cheryl Martin, an Arizona Hope Street Fellow, shares her experience to encourage peer educators.


As I reflect on the past year, I am awestruck with the kindness and generosity that my colleagues in the Dysart Unified School District have shown me. The last few years of my personal life have been very challenging. My husband was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease at age 40, and had to leave his job. This left me, a school teacher, as the sole breadwinner for our family. I was holding it together financially, but it was tough.

Then, without warning, two weeks into the school year, my husband had a massive heart attack. He was in the intensive care unit for three days and cardiac monitoring for two more days. Needless to say, it was a financial and emotional strain. I was worried about my husband, of course, but I also felt bad that I was putting more work on my school team.

The school year had just started, and my team and I were swamped with writing IEPs and holding meetings. I tried to do what I could at the hospital, but I had to take 10 days off at the beginning of the school year. When I got back, a colleague, Mrs. Yang, asked if I could meet with her at the end of the day; we shared a very special student. In fact, I was called down at various times each day to help support him in her inclusion class. I thought she wanted to discuss his behavior while I was gone.

At the end of my first day back, feeling physically exhausted and mentally drained, I made the long trek down the hallway to meet with Mrs. Yang. When I walked into her room, I was immediately greeted with a smile, and she presented me with a bouquet of gift cards. While I was gone, she rallied the entire staff to contribute money. Those gift cards helped my family buy food and put gas in my car for a month. I was not expecting it, and it was one of the kindest things that anyone has ever done for me.


The best part was that I was able to pay it forward. At the end of the school year, I nominated Mrs. Yang for our district teacher of the year award. She won, and I was able to attend the awards banquet with her.

As teachers, I know we make a difference in kids’ lives every day, but the difference Mrs. Yang made for me that day was immeasurable. Thank you, Mrs.Yang!


  • August Merz says:

    Kindness can surely mitigate the pain, stress, a fear of life disruptions. I’ll be thinking about your story all day.

  • Amy Casaldi says:

    What a great story! We always need our colleagues in mind, we think of ways to support our students but supporting each other is also so beneficial.

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