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Miami-Dade teacher receives $100,000 check for her school

A Miami-Dade first-grade teacher flew out to Los Angeles to attend the Ellen DeGeneres talk show and ended up receiving a surprise $100,000 check for her students.

Rachel Faust had written the national talk show host about her students at Van E. Blanton Elementary. She told how they work hard but often come to school hungry and without supplies. She was invited to attend a taping Sept. 18.

But when she got to the set, Faust received a bigger surprise: a $100,000 check from JCP Cares, the foundation arm of retailer JCPenney. In some ways, it was the perfect birthday present for Faust, who turned 24 that day.

In September, JCP Cares focused on supporting Teach for America, the nonprofit that recruits high-energy young adults to work in turnaround schools around the country. Faust spent two years as a Teach for America corps members and is starting her third year teaching as an alumna and Miami-Dade teacher.

Faust lugged the oversize check on the red-eye back to Miami and brought it to school the next day.

Her first-graders had a hard time understanding how much money that meant.

“They thought it was one hundred dollars. They were excited, they were jumping and screaming,” Faust said. “To get them to understand the magnitude of $100,000 is something we’re still working on.”

She regularly spent $1,000 of her own money to outfit her classroom for the school year with bulletin board materials, paper, pencils and other basics.

“It’s just challenging when you’re trying to get the kids to master the basics and they don’t have the resources they need to do their very best,” Faust said.

Tangela Goa, principal of Van E. Blanton, said she was shocked and elated over the gift.

“I’ll get a committee and decide what will be the best way to spend the money so it will be a long-term benefit for the kids,” Goa said.

Faust said the money could be spent on a playground for the school, where kids play on a blacktop, and on more technology.