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Walmart Supercenter surprises 'Teacher of the Year' with shopping spree

Ms. Leonardo receives $750 gift card to buy school supplies for underserved students.

SAN DIEGO — Teachers often spend their own money to help their students with school supplies. In this Zevely Zone, I headed to a Walmart Supercenter for a teacher shopping spree that was on the house. Nicole Leonardo is a 4th and 5th grade teacher at Juarez Elementary in Serra Mesa.

"Nicole, look what's coming over your shoulder," I said. Walmart was about to give the teacher a surprise shopping spree. 

"We would like to present to you a $750 gift card and a year of Walmart+, " said Walmart's Noah Judkins.

Ms. Leonardo was very surprised. "I don't know what to say," she said while holding back tears. 

Ms. Leonardo was Juarez Elementary's 'Teacher of the Year' nominated by her Principal Laura Lemos. "I am just excited to be able to celebrate such a fantastic teacher," said Principal Lemos. " With the pandemic, with students, with personal things that have happened in her life. The fact that she has always been able to put on a smile is amazing."  

Credit: CBS 8

Ms. Leonardo has a one-year-old baby boy at home and balancing motherhood with career consumes her. "Learning how to balance being a good teacher, a good mom, trying to live up to my own goals and my family's goals are a lot. I think I don't give myself enough credit sometimes," Ms. Leonardo.  

Along with treats for the students, Walmart's Noah Judkins hopes school supplies will help her underserved students. "Fruit cups here, Goldfish snacks," said Noah. "We know that teachers spend about $750 out of their pockets each year so we are hoping this can go a long way in helping out our community by helping out your classroom."

Credit: CBS 8

Taking these supplies back to the classroom will be bulletin board material. "They are part of my family, that is the word I think of when I think of my students because I spend more of my time with them than I do [with] my own family. So, I have just adopted them as part of my family," said Ms. Leonardo.

Credit: CBS 8

"She is an incredible human," said fellow teacher Ms. Ysabel Jaimez. I asked her how hard it was to keep the secret from her friend about the surprise. "Hard!... It was hard," laughed Ms. Jaimez.

But it was a whole lot easier to shop until they dropped. "It feels good to not worry about price," said Ms. Leonardo. Ms. Leonardo also received a free just-for-her Walmart+ membership to help her save time and money all year long. 

Ms. Leonardo has been a teacher for four years. San Diego Unified recently honored her as "Teacher of the Year" at Juarez Elementary.

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