Let's admit it, we expect much from teachers. For some teachers, they spend more time with your children than they do their own. Many teachers work with too few supplies, outdated books, and have overcrowded classrooms. They're trying to shape the minds of multiple generations and go underappreciated (and frankly, underpaid) for their dedication and efforts. No, not all are perfect and some should have chosen a different career path, but if we all think back on our school days, we can come up with at least one teacher who we loved because they were committed to building us up and not breaking us down.
Chelsea Haley wanted to be one of those teachers that her students remembered as being edifying. She wanted to make a positive impact on her instruction so she joined Teachers for America so she could be assigned to a low-income school. She was aware that there would be challenges, but when she met fourth grader Jerome Robinson, she had no idea a student could be so difficult.
After interning on Capitol Hill while she was a student at the University of Georgia, Haley regularly sat in on education policy meetings. When she graduated, she joined Teachers for America and was assigned to a school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Young Jerome was often sent to Haley's classroom by other teachers who couldn't deal with his behavior. It was there that the Louisiana teacher began to bond with the boy and the walls he built up around himself began to crumble little by little.
Haley told CNN that there were points when she wanted to throw her hands in the air and walk away from teaching altogether. “At certain points, his behavior got so bad I thought ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be a teacher,'" she told CNN.
At the time, Jerome was living with his mother, but his situation at home was complicated. “It was really hard on her after she lost her husband. It was just a combination of tragedy coupled with the other social situations you face when you live in poverty.” A little sister had died, as well. Jerome and his newborn brother, Jace, were constantly on the move. At certain times they boys lived with their grandparents.
When her two-year contract with Teachers for America came to an end in 2015, the school's principal told her that she should stay. If not for the school, but "for Jerome," specifically. She did. According to Haley, one night in a dream she said God told her that it was her destiny to be Jerome's mom. She thought it was utterly ridiculous until the next day when she watched Jerome take a test. She had a sense of calm and peace that this was indeed what God had planned for her life.
“He just asked me if he could live with me. I told him I had been feeling the same thing," Haley said. "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.”
The Louisiana teacher was planning on moving back to Georgia, so she didn't waste any time sitting down with Jerome's mother. Surprisingly, Jerome's mom told Haley that she can return to the Peach State, but she wanted Haley to take Jerome and Jace with her. Just a few months later Haley filed official papers to permanently adopt the two young boys. She took money from her retirement plan to buy a house for her new family and now she's a middle school teacher in Marietta.
“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.”
The boys are living a much more settled life and Jerome has managed to stay out of trouble. “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.”
"I always knew I wanted to be a mom and I wouldn’t trade this for anything."