Miami-Dade teacher surprises needy students with Christmas gifts

'I feel happy about my toys. It means a lot,' one student says

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – It's the moment that matters most for fifth-grade teacher Jaida Bennett: Over two dozen students arrive at her classroom door at Van E. Blanton Elementary School to find a tree and wrapped presents with their names on them.

"I would hate to see some kids go home say, 'I'm doing this for Christmas. I'm going out of town. I got this I got that.' And I see the little kids, and it's like well, 'I don't have anything,'" Bennett said.

Bennett said she started the toy drive for students last year after realizing some of her students' families were homeless and others struggled to even buy basic school supplies.

"I used to get upset and say, 'Why don't you have a pencil? Why don't you have a paper? This makes no sense," Bennett said. “But I actually took somebody outside and I was like, 'What happened?.' They said they don't have pencil and paper because they can't afford it. They don't have a home. They don't have shoes. They don't have clothes."

Before the school year, she raised money to help children with supplies. This holiday season she pulled donations from family and friends and put in money of her own to buy nearly 300 presents. 

“I feel happy about my toys," said student Dorisha Walker. “It means a lot."

A mother named Jenny said Bennett went out of her way to help when she learned the family was living in a shelter. She said it's the emotional support that means the most. 

"From my understanding we aren't the only ones who were going through a hard time," Jenny said.  “There were other families, but you don't know this until you open up."

Bennett said she hopes to repeat this event in the coming years and hopefully with even more donations on a bigger scale.

She said she hopes it will serve as an inspiration to at least one teacher to reach out and connect with what their students may be going through. 

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