As parents, when you drop your children off at school, you do so with the confidence you’re leaving them in the hands of patient, caring, and qualified people. As long as those in charge are making a positive impact on your child, then all’s well!
Families at St. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Miami, Florida, found just that in Jocelyn Morffi — parents and students alike loved her. So you can imagine their outrage when they came to school one day to find her gone and all of her belongings left behind for a truly baffling reason.
Jocelyn Morffi is a 32-year-old woman who lives in Miami, Florida. She was a first-grade teacher and she loved what she did, the kids loved her back, and the parents adored her as a teacher. Everything was perfect — or so it seemed.
Jocelyn was well known by the parents and staff and was one of the most popular teachers at the school. Parents of her students praised her and referred to Miss Morffi as the “Mother Teresa of teachers,” and for a good reason!
As a teacher of children who are so young and impressionable, Jocelyn found it difficult to talk to her students about the tragedies that occur around the world on a daily basis. She wanted her conversations with them to be filled with hope rather than fear.
St. Peter and Paul Catholic School
Together with her class, she started brainstorming ideas on how to give back to the community and instill hope in her students. They came up with the idea to volunteer at their local homeless shelter.
Jocelyn Morffi / Facebook
Jocelyn recalled, “When I came back from that first feeding, I asked the school if it’s possible for them to back me up, and I got authorization to send out a letter to the parents stating what’s going on and if they would like to contribute in any way.”
Additionally, Jocelyn used her platform on social media to start a program to encourage her students, their parents, and the community to join her in her new initiative. She used the hashtag #TeachHope to spread the word.
Jocelyn Morffi / Facebook
With her social media campaign and the support of her students, Jocelyn was ready to start her campaign and could only hope that the community followed in her footsteps.
Jocelyn Morffi / Facebook
Jocelyn was overwhelmed with support when her students and their parents showed up to volunteer at the homeless shelter with her. Parents also brought generous donations like loves of bread, meats, cheeses, and snacks to bag up and hand out.
Miss Morffi’s students were passionate about her new program. A class parent and co-worker stated, “They wake me up bright and early on Sunday saying, ‘Mom, we have to teach hope.'” She was an integral part of the school, community, and their lives.
Having their kids spend every day with the “Mother Theresa of teachers” is every parent’s dream. That’s why the parents were immediately concerned when Jocelyn stopped showing up to school — and very confused.
See, Jocelyn was scheduled to have some time off from work because she was celebrating something very special. She was about to marry the love of her life and best friend. She just assumed when it was all over, her life would return to normal.
Prior to the big day, Jocelyn set up a wedding website to show all of the important information regarding her wedding and to inform her guests of the festivities. She set up a wedding hashtag so her loved ones could follow the event online.
The couple planned a weekend-long celebration at the Key Largo Lighthouse estate. On Friday they held a welcome bash, followed by a seaside wedding ceremony on Saturday, with a goodbye barbecue on Sunday… but things didn’t go as planned in the days following.
When parents brought their children to St. Peter and Paul Catholic School following the wedding, they were shocked to see that their beloved teacher had not returned. When the parents learned why Miss Morffi was no longer there, they were outraged.
Since Jocelyn was such a known presence in the community and on social media, the school saw pictures of her wedding ceremony. According to the school, what they saw in those photos left them with no choice but to fire her.
Her Instagram displayed photos of Jocelyn and her wife joining in holy matrimony. Because same-sex marriage is not accepted in the Roman Catholic church, the school relieved Jocelyn of her duties as a teacher at the school.
NY Daily News
Jocelyn took to her social media and wrote this: “This weekend I married the love of my life and unfortunately I was terminated from my job as a result. In their eyes, I’m not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in partner.”
The parents who didn’t follow Miss Morffi on Instagram found out from a letter through the school, which stated that “She is no longer teaching at our school,” and it was “a difficult and necessary decision.”
The following day, dozens of angry parents showed up at the school. One parent told the news, “We feel cheated. She was the best kind of teacher that you can ask for and our kids, everybody, every parent here — our kids loved her.”
Parents threatened to pull their children from the school if she wasn’t reinstated. Unfortunately, Catholic schools, like many other schools, are not subject to the states public school laws. So, in the eyes of the Catholic school board, Miss Morffi was in violation of her contract when she married the woman she loved.
As of 2018, Jocelyn was seeking legal advice to figure out her options. Her attorney stated, “Jocelyn is humbled by all the love and support she has received from family, friends, the students’ parents, and the public. She feels that the manner of her firing was unfair, not only to her but to her students as well.”
Unforunately, it’s stories like Jocelyn’s that cause many people to still feel the need to keep their sexuality hidden — Christopher Landis was no exception. The 43-year-old has been a teacher and a choir director in Massachusetts for the past six years.
“You always walk into his classroom and he’s always there with a positive attitude and maybe a compliment. He’s just so nice,” Summer Foraste, one of Landis’ students, said.
What matters most to Mr. Landis is creating a safe environment where open dialogue is encouraged. His students can talk to him about anything, and they often take him up for it by letting him know what’s going on in their lives.
Since Mr. Landis knows so much about his pupils, he wanted to share some personal news with them too, but something left him feeling hesitant. Despite their love for him, he wasn’t sure how they would take the news.
See, on Christmas Eve of 2016, Christopher got engaged to the love of his life, and was going to be married two years later, at the end of 2018. The couple was excited but also worried about how people would react.
What nobody knew was that Christopher’s significant other was a man named Joe Michienzie. In the past whenever his students or their parents would see them out together he referred to Joe as his “friend”.
The school where Mr. Landis works, Hingham Middle School, is located near the coast of Massachusetts. While MA is a fairly liberal state, there are still groups of people who do not feel safe or accepted for who they are.
Mr. Landis wasn’t sure how his beloved students would feel about him being gay. He feared that they might not approve of his lifestyle and relationship, or worse, that they wouldn’t be comfortable around him anymore.
Despite the couple’s best efforts to keep their engagement on the hush-hush, parents found out about their upcoming nuptials. Without Mr. Landis’ knowledge, they devised a top-secret plan…
“At the end of the summer, I heard he was getting married. He’s the best teacher and he makes every school function fun. We thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to do something for his wedding?” Joy Foraste, whose daughter is one of Landis’ students, said.
Foraste and fellow parent Margit Foley started brainstorming ideas for a surprise in September of 2018. But before starting any real plans, they decided to reach out to make sure it was something Mr. Landis would like.
“We reached out to his fiancé because I wasn’t really sure how he’d feel,” Foley explained. “He was immediately on board. He said he had also been trying to figure out how to incorporate the students because they mean so much to Mr. Landis.”
A group of parents got together and made sure that all his pupils, from sixth to eighth graders, would attend the couple’s wedding with a surprise that would show their full support of their favorite teacher.
“We hoped we’d get at least 15 kids to do it,” said Foraste after emailing the parents of about 60 choir kids. “But instead we had over 50 kids. It’s such a testament to Mr. Landis as a teacher and as a figure in their lives.”
While Foley and Foraste visited the reception venue to clear their plans with the proprietors, the students worked hard on their surprise with the help of Dona Maher, a private chorus teacher who knew Mr. Landis too.
“I was absolutely delighted and honored when they had asked for my help — it was an instantaneous yes from me,” Maher told Wicked Local. “This was a genuinely thoughtful and loving gesture for their teacher.”
With Maher on board, the students showed up every Sunday for four weeks to practice their performance. This meant the kids gave up four weekend days to do something nice for their teacher.
It was the day of the wedding rehearsal, and as soon as the children appeared at the ceremony, the two grooms were overcome with emotion. The kids walked in gracefully, lined up with a smile, and began singing an all too familiar Beatles’ tune…
“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done, nothing you can sing that can’t be sung, nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game. It’s easy — all you need is love.”
When Mr. Landis realized what was happening, he instantly started to cry. “I noticed everyone was holding video cameras and I was wondering, like, ‘What’s going on?'” Landis told Inside Edition.
“Then I saw the first student come in and I was like ‘Oh my goodness,’ but I don’t think it hit me until all of these students came in, and they were smiling and all dressed up. I started crying and they started crying.”
The whole performance was filmed and posted online, where it soon went viral. “I still get choked up watching it,” a newly-wedded Joe told The New York Times.
“I always referred to him as my friend because I wasn’t sure how the kids or parents would take it,” Landis said. “When they came to sing I felt like they were basically saying: ‘It’s okay. We know who Joe is.’ So now I say: ‘Joe, my husband.'”
At the end of the video, one of the students’ mom’s comes up to Landis to explain the whole situation and inform him about how much they practiced. He was truly blown away by their dedication.
“As a middle-school teacher, I see students struggle to figure out who they are and to deal with personal issues. I was so glad they were there, feeling the love in the room and knowing everything’s going to be okay… that things do work out.” The best teacher always fight for their students…
…though their struggles are often overlooked. In 2018, Elisabeth Milich of Phoenix’s Whispering Wind Academy couldn’t take it anymore. Furious about the system continually failing to appreciate her, she stormed out. But this teacher didn’t just kick her feet up at home. No, she took to the streets.
New York Post
She joined 70,000 of Arizona’s teachers, who walked out of their classrooms and took to the state capitol in protest. They were unhappy with how those in their profession were treated and demanded recognition — and raises — for their hard work.
See, the average salary for an Arizona teacher wasn’t great; in fact, they made almost $10,000 less than most other teachers in America. Not only that, but their salaries had actually gone down by 14% in the previous ten years — and it got worse.
Their salaries didn’t tell the whole story. Despite minimal pay, teachers spent on average almost $500 of their own money on supplies for their classrooms every year. That’s hard-earned money taken out of their paychecks that they didn’t get back.
So, during the walkout, the teachers organized events to inform the public about their concerns while making sure the students who relied on subsidized lunches still got their daily meals. Best of all, these protests had some serious results.
The teachers’ inspiring movement was met with support from their community and many of their leaders. “We are inspired and so proud of the brave and righteous stand that you are taking,” said State Senator Rebecca Rios. But it was something Elisabeth did that really sent a message to Arizonians.
Elisabeth wanted to show people that she was struggling to get by on her salary while also paying for school supplies out of pocket, so she took to Facebook. There, she shared her thoughts — and her pay — and people took notice.
Elisabeth wrote, “I buy every roll of tape I use, every paper clip I use, every sharpie I grade with, every snack I feed kids who don’t have them, every decorated bulletin board, the list could go on.”
“I’ve debated about posting this but in the end want to show what a teaching salary really looks like in AZ,” Elisabeth continued. “I mean really, I need a college degree to make this?”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
She then shared a photo of her paystub — $35,000, or $639 every two weeks. She confessed that, without her husband’s paycheck, she likely couldn’t live. Her post ended with a stunning final note.
Elisabeth finished her post by reminding people of one simple fact: “No one goes into teaching for the money, by all means…but we do need to eat and have a home!” The effects of her post were immediate.
The post blew up on the internet, and within 24 hours, it was shared over 1,000 times. Many more Arizonians cheered on Elisabeth, shocked by how little teachers made every year. But one person, in particular, saw the post and took action…
Months later, after Elisabeth had long forgotten about her viral post, she received a Facebook message from a stranger named Ben Adam. He wrote just one sentence.
All his message said was, “Has anybody offered to buy supplies for your classroom?” He followed up by offering to pay for all the school materials she needed that semester!
As you might expect, Elisabeth was completely taken aback: “I just thought that was so crazy and there’s gotta be a catch because this man lives in New York!” Somehow, he’d even heard about troubles in Arizona.
Elisabeth couldn’t be certain if this stranger was pulling her leg but, sure enough, the supplies arrived shortly after. She was blown away and thrilled that she could finally provide her students with the education they deserved. Ben didn’t stop there, either.
He’s paid for all of Elisabeth’s supplies for every semester afterwards. And once he heard how many classrooms were in need, he started paying for supplies for five other teachers, too!
Ben said he did all this out of empathy. “I have three kids; I’m a working person,” said Ben. “I can’t imagine trying to live, buy supplies, and support my family on $35,000 a year.”
Best of all, he wasn’t done. Ben had another idea up his sleeve: Knowing there were thousands more teachers out there struggling to stock their classrooms, Ben set up Classroom Giving in 2019, a website that let people across the country buy supplies for teachers in need.
Since April of that year, the website has helped 37 teachers fully supply their classrooms. The support was overwhelming and allowed these teachers to provide their students with everything from schoolbooks to paint brushes.
Ben planned to keep expanding the initiative and hoped more local businesses would get involved. His dream was to strengthen the bonds between classrooms and donors by having students visit local businesses and write thank-you notes.
But it wasn’t just the teachers feeling the support. The children receiving the school supplies were thrilled to know there were people in the world who cared about supporting their education.
The New York Times
Elisabeth was hopeful this sparked change for teachers in her state: “To show kids, teachers and school districts that our local businesses are as invested in education as someone across the country is,” she said, “could be really revolutionary for the culture of education in Arizona.”
In the meantime, Ben’s program could go long way in helping dedicated teachers like Leland Michael of Des Moines, Iowa. He knew kids are the future, but he, too, struggled to pay for supplies.
Leland thought education was so important he went into it professionally himself. He taught at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, and he loved working with the young bright students.
In fact, Leland frequently attended teacher rallies around the country to show his support of the hard work they all do on a daily basis. Teaching was often a thankless job, but Leland loved spending time around others who were as dedicated as he was.
Leland and his wife were thrilled to finally start a family of their own, no small feat considering his small salary. While teaching was a rewarding job, it wasn’t one that brought home the big bucks. But Leland took it all in stride until that fateful trip to Walmart…
Every year, a few weeks before the fall high school semester started, parents — Leland included — shopped for all the supplies their children needed for the upcoming school year. Having the necessary supplies was important, but Leland knew many of the parents had mixed feelings about it…
Every family came from different economic backgrounds, and it wasn’t as easy for some parents to afford all the supplies. And while Leland perused the local Walmart for classroom items, he came across a large group of parents angrily discussing the fact they had to purchase supplies.
They even turned to Leland and started complaining. None of them knew he was a teacher, nor did they know that he was using money from his own pocket to buy supplies for the kids in his classroom.
Leland felt pretty dismayed by what he heard the parents say. None of them had any idea of just how hard public schools had it, how many of them — just like him — had to scrounge for pennies in order to give their students a fighting chance. That’s when it happened…
Leland felt someone tap him on the shoulder. He turned around, uneasily. He saw a man with an angry face glaring back at him. Leland was concerned. Was this angry parent going to take out his aggression on him? But then the man finally spoke…
The man asked if Leland was a teacher. When Leland confirmed, the man, who had with him a young daughter, proceeded to thank and praise him for the hard work he and every other teacher in the district put towards the kids. Next, he stuck his hand in his pocket…
…And he offered Leland a $25 gift card to help with the supplies he was buying! It was an act of generosity the likes of which Leland had never encountered before. This was an act of kindness that came from deep within the heart.
Leland used the gift card to help pay for all his classroom supplies, and as he was walking through the parking lot to his car, he spotted the man and his daughter. Leland walked over and thanked the man again for the wonderful gesture. Leland then explained why the gesture was extra special…
Leland told the man about the angered parents he encountered and the comments they made to him. They were completely unaware he was a teacher himself and their comments had very nearly driven him to despair.
But then he met that kind man and his daughter. See, while the angry parents might have brought him down, this man and the positive example he was setting for his daughter had given Leland hope for the future.
That young girl saw her father give the utmost thanks to a teacher, which would have likely meant she would walk into her new classroom at the beginning of the year with respect for her educator. This respect was necessary to attain a particularly special reward…
A college degree! Students who planned on continuing their education after high school needed to look up to their teachers and see them as role models trying to help them be the best they can.
Just because a student wasn’t able to gather all of the necessary supplies, it didn’t mean they weren’t going to succeed. Sure, the supplies helped, but if the student had an eagerness to learn, they’d be just fine. And hopefully, a teacher would spot that desire and help them with the costs.
Leland’s wife was always proud of her husband and his drive to educate the youth. She knew the job came with ups and downs, but his passion to help people grow positively was the reason she fell in love him. She planned on sticking by his side through every ebb and flow of his career.
When Leland first heard those angry words, it was impossible not to feel resentment towards the parents’ attitudes. But his whole day turned around when he realized there were people out there who truly appreciated him and teachers everywhere.
Teachers have undeniably difficult jobs. How they can ever accomplish what they want to do—mold and inspire young minds—with so many challenges in their way is beyond belief, but it certainly isn’t beyond acknowledgment.