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A rowdy boy almost made her quit teaching. Then, he became her son

Fourth grader Jerome Robinson was the bane of his young teacher’s career.

“At certain points, his behavior got so bad, I thought ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be a teacher,'” Chelsea Haley told CNN.

Haley joined Teach for America to make a difference in a low-income school. She did not expect to encounter a tough boy like Robinson. She definitely did not plan on adopting him and his little brother.

“I never thought I’d be a single mom at age 24, especially of two boys, one of which was my 12-year-old student and the other one who was only a year-and-a-half,”Haley said.

Chelsea Haley poses with adopted sons Jerome (left) and Jade (center).

Teacher and student form unlikely bond

Haley had been chair of the College Republicans at the University of Georgia. While interning on Capitol Hill, she sat in on meetings about education policy and joined Teach For America upon graduation. That’s how she ended up at the elementary school in Baton Rouge Louisiana, struggling to control Robinson and, somehow, gaining his trust.

Other teachers would send the boy to Haley’s classroom, where she made him get his work done.

“I got a lot of thankful emails and knocks on my door,” she said.

Robinson lived with his birth mother at the time.

“It was really hard on her after she lost her husband,” Haley said.

A little sister also passed away.

“It was just a combination of tragedy coupled with the other social situations you face when you live in poverty,” Haley said.

The boy, and newborn brother Jace, moved around a lot.

“They spent a lot of time living with their grandparents,” Haley said.

Birth mother makes bold request

By 2015, Haley was finishing her two-year Teach For America obligation but she felt something pulling her back as though her work wasn’t quite done.

The school principal suggested Haley stick around “for Jerome.” She did, signing on for a third year as a special education teacher.

One night that October, Haley felt as though God came to her in a dream, telling her she was destined to be Robinson’s mother. She laughed out loud, thinking the idea was preposterous and went back to sleep. But, the next day at school, the teacher was overcome with a profound, peaceful feeling while Robinson sat alone with her taking a test.

“He just asked me if he could live with me,” Haley said. “I told him I had been feeling the same thing.”

The next day, Haley went to dinner with Robinson, little brother Jace and their mother.

Haley explained she was finishing her third year at the school and planned to return to Georgia.

“You can go back,” the boys’ mother told Haley. “But, I want you to take Jerome and Jace with you.”

Forming a new family

Haley filed papers for permanent custody of Robinson in December 2015. Later, she filed papers to adopt Jace, as well.

“You have to be 12 years older than somebody to obtain custody of them, and I am 12 years and three months older than him,” Haley said.

Haley pulled out money from her retirement plan for a down payment on a house where her two boys could have a stable life.

She’s now a 26-year-old middle school teacher in Marietta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.

Robinson “has not gotten any suspensions or anything, which is a huge improvement from life in Louisiana,” Haley said. “He used to fail all of his classes and just didn’t care. Now, he has made honor roll both quarters of his eighth grade year so far.”

The boys are thriving. So, is Haley – as a teacher and as a mother.

“I always knew I wanted to be a mom, and I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” she said.