Chelsea Haley is a teacher who dreamed of making a difference. She joined “Teach For America” after she interned on Capitol Hill and learned about the group. “Teach For America” is an organization that connects dedicated individuals who want to make a difference with teaching positions in low-income areas across the U.S.
CNN reports that Haley was assigned to an elementary school in Louisiana, where she taught fourth grade. There, Haley encountered a student named Jerome, a fourth-grader who would be sent to her classroom when he displayed unruly and disruptive behaviors in his other classroom.CNN
Sometimes, when a teacher is having difficulty managing disruptive behaviors in the classroom, they will send the student to another classroom to help them calm down. Haley said that Jerome would often be sent to her classroom, but his behavior was so difficult to manage, she considered quitting teaching altogether.
She told CNN:
“At certain points, his behavior got so bad. I thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be a teacher.'”
But eventually, she found a way to help him and was able to get him to do his work. His teachers were grateful for her ability to deal effectively with him.
“I got a lot of thankful emails and knocks on my door.”
Jerome endured extreme difficulties in his home life. He lived with his birth mother, who was trying to cope with the loss of her husband and Jerome’s little sister while caring for a newborn named Jace. Financial difficulties, multiple losses, and a newborn created an unstable environment for the boys, who were often sent to live with their grandparents.
“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.”
Haley told CNN that as the end of her two-year commitment for “Teach For America” neared, she had a feeling that she needed to stay a while longer.
The principal recommended that Haley continue working with Jerome. So, she agreed to stay on as a special education teacher.
Then one night, Haley told CNN that she “felt as though God came to her in a dream” and told her that she was meant to be Jerome’s mom.
When she woke up she laughed out loud, thinking that it was an absurd idea, and went back to sleep. But later, while she was watching Jerome take a test, the feeling of wanting to adopt him persisted.
“He just asked me if he could live with me. I told him I had been feeling the same thing.”
The next day, Haley went out for dinner with Jerome, his mom, and Jace. Haley informed them that after her third year at the school, she would return to Georgia.
Jerome’s mother replied:
“You can go back. But I want you to take Jerome and Jace with you.”
With these words of approval, Haley filed for permanent custody of Jerome and his brother. Haley dipped into her retirement savings, put a down payment on a house in Marietta, Georgia, and she and her two sons moved into their new home.
Haley said that since she, Jerome, and Jace have become a family, Jerome “has not gotten any suspensions or anything, which is a huge improvement from life in Louisiana.” Jerome’s grades have also improved significantly since his years in Louisiana.
“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.”
Haley, who’s now 26, teaches in a middle school while being a mother to her Jerome and Jace.
“I always knew I wanted to be a mom and I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”
It just goes to show that by sticking it out a difficult situation, Haley was able to change lives for the better— including her own.