An inspiring teacher who helped raise money to fund 100 student projects was surprised on “ Good Morning America” Friday with $30,000 to help fund even more projects in the future.
"I’m overwhelmed with love, which is the best part of being a teacher," Jami Witherell, a fifth-grade teacher in West Springfield, Massachusetts, said about the surprise. "I get to go to work every day and love all of you so thank you for returning and sharing that love with me.
As a teacher in a school district with many low-income families, Witherell has made it her mission to make sure every child in her classroom has the tools to succeed.
She is in the top one percent among teachers who raise money on Donors Choose, an online platform where anyone can donate to educators who post projects and classroom items they need funded.
Click here for more information on how to find a classroom, project or teacher to support on Donors Choose.
"She’s real,” said Kia Burton-McLafin, a parent whose child was a student of Witherell’s at Newton Elementary School in Greenfield, Massachusetts. “There are teachers out there that really care, and she is one of them.”
Last spring, after teaching at Newton Elementary School for six years, Witherell made the difficult decision to leave the school to help care for her mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer.
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"She went with me to every single appointment I had, every single consultation I [had]," Witherell's mom, Lin, told "GMA." "She told me she wanted to be closer to help me if I needed her, and I did."
Witherell moved to a new town and began teaching fifth grade this year at Coburn Elementary School in West Springfield. Just two weeks into the school year, her colleagues say she is already making a difference.
The school's principal, Gina Martin-Ryan, said that when students are asked what they think of Witherell, the common response is, "We already know she loves us."
Both Witherell's current and former students came out to help surprise her Friday on "GMA."
Because of her dedication to her students at both schools, Donors Choose surprised Witherell with one $15,000 gift card to help her current school, Coburn Elementary, and another $15,000 gift card to help her old school, Newton Elementary.
Learn more about the current projects on Donors Choose at Witherell's new school, Philip G. Coburn Elementary School, and former school, Newton Elementary School, here.