TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Recovering from surgery can be challenging -- physically, mentally, and financially. Michelle Kirby knows that all too well. She's a fifth-grade teacher at Kyrene de Los Ninos school in Tempe. She recently underwent knee surgery for the second time in about a year, and the process is taking a toll on her spirits. When Javier Soto and the Arizona's Family Surprise Squad heard her story, they wanted to do something positive for her. So they went to her classroom to surprise her in front of her students.
"Miss Kirby?" Soto asked as he walked into the room. "Javier Soto from Arizona's Family Surprise Squad. We wanted to give back and just put a smile on your face. So, surprise!" The classroom erupted in cheers and applause as Kirby stood there, not knowing what to say. Soto then asked her to talk about why she got into teaching in the first place.
"For a lot of kids, this is an extension of their home," she explained. "Right here, and I want to be a part of that. So it's one of the reasons I teach -- to inspire."
"We want to surprise you," Soto continued, "and as I mentioned, we just want to put a smile on your face. So we got together with Mynd Spa. We just want to give you a day all about you so you can be pampered, and you can be taken care of, and you can let all your worries and problems just escape you, at least for the time being."
"Having an opportunity to take a day for me, I don't know what that feels like," Kirby said with a smile. "But I guess I'll find out pretty soon."
Soto then motioned to a woman who had entered the room with the Surprise Squad. "Juliet is the one who nominated you," Soto told Kirby. "She reached out to the Surprise Squad, and she explained what an amazing friend you've been to her and how she wanted to help you."
"I had her son [in my class]a couple of years ago," Kirby said.
"She makes an impact on every kid's life that she teaches," Juliet explained. "They all talk about her still. And my son still talks about her to this day, and he would get mad at me if we were going on vacation during school because he wanted to be there. It was important to him once he was in her class."
The Surprise Squad then led Kirby to a private room. "I didn't want to get too personal in there with the kids and stuff like that," Soto said. "Growing up was kind of tough?"
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"Yeah," Michelle replied. "How were you able to get through that?" Kirby paused, then let out a heavy sigh before answering. "I was looking around at my friends that were my age group and just watching how they were ending up in jail and prison and dead. And I said, 'Whoa.' I was homeless for a period of time when I was in high school, living out of my mom's car. My outlet was sports. Playing basketball was kind of my ticket out. It took a while for even my family to come around and be like, 'OK, Michelle's pretty good at this basketball game.' So yeah, I was pretty good. I got about 300 rebounds in a season at NAU."
Kirby explained that she is the first in her family to graduate with a degee. "My oldest son is the first male in the family with a degree," she said.
Soto then handed Kirby an envelope. "The Surprise Squad and Arizona's Family along with Toyota Dealers would like to give you that."
"Thank you," Kirby said. "You want me to open it? I was just going to hold it for a little while." Her eyes widened before the tears started to flow as she saw was getting $3,000 from the Surprise Squad. "Wow. Thank you. Medical bills [from the surgery] are starting to pile up a lot," she said. "And everybody wants to get paid now. So, instead of having to do a payment plan that will take me years to pay off, this will be a nice down payment on that."