MESA, Ariz. -- She's a Valley teacher whose lessons are going far beyond the classroom. And Monday, she was honored for her good works.
Mesa teacher Faith Leonard was deeply affected by the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook. So over her Christmas break from school, she packed up a carload of goodies, and drove to Newtown, CT, hoping to spread holiday cheer to those children whose lives had been forever altered by the massacre.
"I'm not a mom yet, but these kids are my kids, and my heart went out to the families and to the school," says Leonard, who's known at school as Mrs. Faith "I felt moved to give up my time and my service to them."
Leonard drove almost 48 hours straight, cross country, with her car filled with items for the children of Sandy Hook. The delivery included candy canes donated by Boy Scout troops, stuffed animals donated by Girl Scout troops, art supplies, and hundreds of homemade cookies.
Leonard says it was no sacrifice to do this for the kids. In fact, she told 3TV's Stella Inger that it felt like giving "herself" a Christmas gift. "I definitely feel like I got so much more than I gave them. They are such a strong community, and I was really blessed to get to know them."
Leonard was honored Monday by the "Be Kind People Project". Organizers travel across the nation to honor teachers for what they do. Today they made a special stop at Barbara Bush Elementary School in Mesa, to pay tribute to Faith Leonard.
Project founder Marcia Meyer says she believes teachers are heroes. "Teachers are everyday heroes in our community and Faith Leonard is just the epitome of what a teacher does, not only for the students but for the community."
Leonard says her journey to Sandy Hook taught her some valuable lessons. "I've learned there are bad things in the world but we want to make sure every day we wake up being part of the good."
The Be Kind People Project is a nonprofit organization that is building a national movement to cultivate a culture of kindness by helping K-8 students experience the joy, fun and fulfillment that comes with being kind to others while celebrating teachers and their contributions to society. BKPP has developed a comprehensive national program of classroom events, contests and Classroom Kindness Kits that teach kids it really is cool to be kind. This is a powerful lesson that can spread from one student to the next, from the classroom to the community, and ultimately, to the nation at large.
At the core of the program is The Be Kind Pledge, where students commit to being encouraging, supportive, positive, helpful, honest, considerate, thankful, responsible, respectful and a friend. Then, with their teacher's help, they learn the emotional and interpersonal skills needed to make these values an integral and ongoing part of their lives.
You can find out more about the Be Kind People Project on the organization's website.