Encouraging Teacher Moved to Tears by Big Gift for His Community
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Encouraging Teacher Moved to Tears by Big Gift for His Community

So should I call you
Robert or Mr. Dunham? Well, it’s your show. Whatever works for you. Oh, it’s my show now. Thank you, Robert. We’ll tell Ellen quickly. [LAUGHTER] Now, I saw a photo of you
cutting a kid’s hair in class, right? Mm-hmm. And this went viral. [EXHALES] Yeah. Yeah. So how did this happen? How did this come about? So in Richmond, we
have this thing. It’s called the
Moving On Ceremony. And some people call it a
graduation ceremony– whatever. But we have a
Moving On Ceremony, and we do it every
year for fifth grade. And so as we were preparing, I
just saw that some of my kids– some of my male
students were not ready. And I said to them,
hey, are you guys going to be good for tomorrow? And they was like, oh,
Mr. Dunham, we got it. I said, no, you
guys look jacked up. So I’m just saying– [LAUGHTER] Like, are you sure? Right, right. They said, no, we got it. I said, OK, whatever. So I went home and really
didn’t think about it. And I woke up the next
morning and I just had this really funny feeling. And so I just started throwing
my clippers in the bag. And my wife, she said, where
you going with those clippers? I said, babes, somebody’s going
to come in here jacked up. So we’ve got to– I’m telling you
right– somebody’s going to come here jacked up. You’ve got to tighten things up. Yeah, tighten– yeah,
I’ve got to fix that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so I get to
work and I’m getting everything ready for the show. And next thing you know,
one of my students walks in. And just like I said, jacked up. Hair akimbo. And I said, I knew it. I knew you were
going to come here. I said, come on, man. Let’s just get this right. Yeah. And so the next thing you
know, my colleagues started coming in the room and
saying, Mr. Dunham, can you take one more? I was like, this is
not the barbershop. Like, what’s wrong
with you guys? And it’s like, oh, we’ve got
another one, and we’ve got– and the next thing you
know, I’m just sitting– It’s like a Krispy Kreme
line out the door now. I’m like, what is going on, man? And I’m just sitting there and
I’m just lining everybody up, and doing something that– How many haircuts did
you end up giving? I think I did about
seven that day. No kidding. Yeah. And when it went viral,
what did that feel like? Was that– I don’t know. I guess I freaked
out a little bit. [LAUGHS] Sure, sure. Because I really didn’t
expect any of that to happen. And so it’s just
been surreal, man, just to see that
going viral like that. Well, that makes me
so happy that you were celebrated for
that, because it’s a very beautiful gesture. Now, you said that your
classroom is sometimes like a sanctuary or a
getaway for these students. Yes, definitely. And what do you mean by that? So I have students that just
come from some of the worst type of situations. And it’s not their
fault, but it’s just things that just happen. And so what I always
wanted to make sure that my classroom was,
it was just a place that they can come
to my classroom and forget about
everything that’s going on. You just come there,
and you can literally forget about all your problems. Yeah. And I just wanted to
have that type of place– that type of
learning environment. That’s beautiful. Now, you mean a lot
to your students, but one in particular you
had a real big impact. Yeah. Who’s that? OK. I hope nobody was
one of these kids. But basically, he was just
really angry all the time, and I could not figure why. And it was just– nothing I was doing was reaching
him, and just every single day. And I just got to a point
I didn’t know what to do. And I had a conversation
with my wife. I said, babes, I really don’t
know what to do with him. He’s mad all the time. Yeah. And she says, baby,
he’s not mad at you. It’s something going on. And she says, once you
figure out what’s going on and you connect with him
on a different level, everything will just stop. This beautiful woman right here? Yes, absolutely. That’s my wife. Oh, man. How you doing? [APPLAUSE] Yes. That’s my boo. [LAUGHS] I did good, right? You did real good. Yeah. I think we both are
out of our pay grade. Yeah. I don’t know– Yeah, congratulations. I don’t know how I
pulled that one off, I’ll tell you right now. I don’t– no idea. [LAUGHTER] And so I finally found
a way to reach him. And at the end of the year,
he writes this letter, he folds it up, and
he gives it to me. He says, Mr. Dunham,
this is for you. And I didn’t read
it immediately, because I just
thought he was going to write whatever in there. And I got in the car
and I opened the letter and I started reading it. And I got choked
up, because this was a kid that told me four or
five times that he hated me. Yeah. But then he literally
gives me a letter saying, Mr. Dunham, you were one of the
best teachers I’ve ever had. And thank you for
everything that you’ve done for me this year. And one of the things
he did say– he says, all the times you said you
was going to call my mom, you never did. And I thank you for that. [LAUGHTER] I never did. Well, listen, I’ll tell you– [APPLAUSE] A teacher, Mr.
Woods, saved my life. I was dyslexic. I couldn’t read. I was going to learning
disabled classes. And this guy figured out
that I was good at math. I just needed one thing
to be confident about. And he believed in me,
and he had me start teaching the other kids math. And all of a sudden, I was
like, oh, I can do this. Wow. That man– I’m not sitting
here without that man. You’re that man to this guy. Thank you. So I’m so happy for you. Thank you so much. Now, listen. [APPLAUSE] We’re going to come back a
little later in the show, and I want to hear
about what your dream is for your community. And hopefully, we
can help with that. Absolutely. So we’ll be right back. Now, you got something
going in your community. You wanted to help the kids. So what did you start? What did you do? So I had gotten so
many letters and emails from across the country about
just how my story had just impacted them so much. It was a random act of kindness. And I was sitting down one day. I said, how do I
keep this going? Because there’s going to be
another group of kids who’s going to need the
same thing, and I want to make sure that I’m able
to do something to help them. And so I decided to start a
nonprofit organization called “Be the Change RVA.” And what we decided to do–
myself and my wife and my older brother– we started this organization
where literally, we just started partnering with all
of the local barbershops in the community and having
them donate their time, providing free haircuts. Yeah. And that’s what
we started doing. [APPLAUSE] And we just had
an event recently, where I partnered with
one of the barbershops and we gave away
over 70 backpacks, getting the kids
ready for school. And we did about 40
haircuts that day. Yeah. You’re three times better
of a person than me. It’s so impressive. Now, listen, you– Only three? [LAUGHTER] It may be 23. Yeah. Now, you’ve given back
to your community, and we would like
to give back to you. Now, your car broke, right? [SIGHS] And you recently came into
possession of a Honda Odyssey van. Yeah. You put $1,500 down. I went through your finances. You still– [LAUGHTER] You still owe $8,500
on this thing. Yeah, that’s– OK? That’s absolutely true. Well, Ellen’s
friends at Shutterfly would love to help you. They love to help people. So what we’d like to do is
give you a check for $10,000 to pay off that Honda Odyssey. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] Let’s see. Boom, boom, boom. Mr. Dunham, it’s not over. You’ve gotta save a
couple tears for this, because we also heard
that you’ve been saving up for a trip to Disney World. Oh. Shutterfly is going to
make that happen as well. We’re going to give you
another $10,000 for that trip. Let’s bring out the check. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] Oh, man. Oh, man. You deserve this. You so deserve this. Oh, man.

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