As it is currently Teacher Appreciation Week, it seemed especially fitting to share this uplifting story. It’s a Pay It Forward story about a MontCo teacher, her sister, her students, and a lesson that we’re all connected. In fact, the kindness we show others can extend even beyond our own lifetime.
Kristina Ulmer is an English Teacher at Hatboro-Horsham High School. In October 2014, her younger sister, Katie Amodei, died in a car accident. After her sister passed away, Kristina found some money in Katie’s wallet. Katie had spent so much of her young life dedicated to aiding those in need. Therefore, Kristina knew the money needed to help others, but donating to a random charity didn’t feel right.
Kristina held onto the money and slowly contributed to it. She won a Chromebook at a conference, sold it, and added the money to the pile. Cash here and there went into the wallet where it would wait for the right moment. Finally, by Christmas of 2018, she had enough to do something that would be meaningful.
The day before winter break, Kristina told her students that she had a special project for them. She told them about her sister and the money, and then revealed $420 in twenty dollar bills. After handing each student a bill, she explained that there one stipulation: They had to use it to help someone in need or to do a random act of kindness.
This is where the magic happens. While the students could have easily spent the money over the school break, they were passionate about meeting Mrs. Ulmer’s challenge. Some donated to charities that were important to them, some gave back to others in the community, and some just did things to bring a smile to a stranger’s face.
Watch this video to hear the students talk about the project in their own words:
“All of them learned the lesson I so desperately try to teach my students each semester. It’s a lesson I hope stays with them, “ Kristina stated.
This story could easily end right here and it would still be wonderful. But what’s even more amazing, is that it has continued on. A few weeks into the new semester, Kristina Ulmer received an email from someone telling her that they heard about what her class had done. Wanting to remain anonymous, the person wished to pay for Kristina’s new class of students to have the same experience. A few days later, Kristina received a $520 check to keep the project going.
“And so my current students get to experience this lesson. I’m excited to see what they do. And I hope they learn the same lesson my students did last semester: that we are all connected; that humanity relies on each of us looking out for each another; and that kindness is contagious.” ~ Kristina Ulmer
Kristina’s story became popular in local Facebook circles this week when the Hatboro-Horsham High School librarian, Lauren DeSieno, shared that one of the students in that English class walked in and handed over a $20 bill to pay for students with fines. The $20 paid for 11 fines, including three seniors who wouldn’t have been able to graduate without payment. When praised for her huge heart and desire to share her sister’s spirit of giving with others, Kristina was quick to reply, “It’s my students who deserve the attention. They inspire me every day.”
Eric Bromberg, one of Kristina Ulmer’s students who will get this experience twice as he’s in her class again this semester. (Photo Credit: Hatboro-Horsham High Senior, Hailey Phillips)