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Sonya Romero is a kindergarten teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I feel like as educators, we’re sort of the first responders,” Romero said.
The first question that Sonya asks her students every day is whether or not they have eaten that morning. She asks them if they need anything to wear, or need to brush their teeth, or comb their hair.
“We usually spend about the first hour of our morning getting ready for our day to learn,” Romero said.
With one son of her own, Sonya took in two children in crisis – who were her former students – after Child Protective Services showed up at the school… six months before she appeared on Ellen on Thursday, March 19, 2015.
“We had nothing. So we got toothbrushes, and jammies, and underwear, and brushes, and they’ve been with us ever since.”
Ellen and her team made a tear-jerking appreciation video showing some of the people at the school that Sonya has impacted.
“When we say we love her, she says she loves us back,” Marianna, a kindergartner in Sonya’s class, said.
“I still visit her to say hi and give her a hug because it makes me feel like, comfort kind of,” Seven, one of Sonya’s former students, said.
“I want to be like her when I grow up. I want to be able to make everyone feel like they’re equal and they all have some part in the world that they can improve, that they can make it a better place,” Ula, another one of Sonya’s former students, said.
“Teachers are supposed to have these professional boundaries, but really, her heart has no boundaries,” Kellie Tomlin with Albuquerque Child Protective Services said.
With tears in their eyes, Ellen presented Sonya with a $10,000 Target check. And since she knew that Sonya would use it to help Lew Wallace Elementary, Ellen gave Sonya another $10,000 Target check to use for herself.
“When you hear the budget that they have, and what comes out of her pocket…we want to help this school, we want to help these kids, and we’re gonna help you,” Ellen said to the audience and then to Sonya.