Teacher goes above and beyond for students in need

Giving in Focus: Sonya Romero
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Story highlights

  • Sonya Romero is a teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary School in New Mexico
  • During her 18 years of teaching, Romero has provided food and clothing to her students
  • Romero took in two former students and is now their foster mom

Albuquerque, New Mexico (CNN)Sonya Romero learned early in her career that teaching is about more than just the subject matter -- it's about the students.

"Their needs have be met -- whatever they are ... socially, emotionally, physically, so that they have the ability to learn, " says Romero.
She teaches kindergarten at Lew Wallace Elementary School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and most of her students live in poverty. Romero works hard to make her kids feel comfortable and safe in the classroom so they can focus on their lessons.
"When my students come in the morning, I ask if they've eaten breakfast. Once they've had their breakfast I just do an assessment of needs," says Romero. "I buy and keep in stock socks, jackets, scarves, hats, toothbrushes and snacks. I've done that since I started teaching. And over the years as the population has shifted, I've needed a lot more of those supplies."
Sonya Romero inspires smiles from her 2015 kindergarten class.
Romero and Lew Wallace Elementary are now receiving more help from the community.
"A lot of the assistance that I get is from people who want to make a difference. So now our school has quite a bit of supplies. Whatever we don't use, we share with the other downtown schools, which has been amazing," she says.
Romero believes that educators are key to developing the lives of our youth.
"Being a teacher is being an advocate, being an agent for their change and to help them in any way that they need," says Romero. "It means really caring about these kids so they can give back and we can keep that cycle going."

Answering the call

Romero's mission to help kids went one step further when she got a call from a social worker who said two of Romero's former students needed a temporary home.
"Having a teacher relationship with them is one thing, but having them live with me is different," admits Romero.
After speaking to her son, Blaine, Romero invited the girls into her home. What was supposed to be a 48-hour stay turned into a year. She says she wouldn't change a thing and encourages others to consider becoming foster parents.
"There's so many children that need homes and so many situations that are far more complicated. But if you have that space in your heart and in your home, it's the best experience."