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Surprise! A beloved mom and educator couldn’t stop smiling when a secret renovation, a happy reunion and some incredible gifts made it a special Teacher Appreciation Week.
As part of TODAY'S "Mom's the Word" series celebrating Mother's Day, Sheinelle Jones visited Beth Holen, a California mom of two whose kind spirit has transformed children’s lives.
“My mom is the definition of a super mom. She's my best friend; she's my go-to. I can trust her with anything going on in my life,” said her daughter Jessy.
But Holen is also a loving “go-to” for many other kids outside her home. As a special education teacher at Castaic Middle School near Los Angeles, she helps students who struggle with autism, anxiety and learning disabilities.
“I do feel like we're teaching the whole student, not just the math student or the English student. We're teaching the whole child. And so part of that is their heart,” Holen said.
Parents say that caring approach is making a huge difference. When one of Holen’s students, 13-year-old Megan, first came into her class, she was withdrawn and hated school. But now, she can't wait to get there, her mom says.
“Somehow, Mrs. Holen made that classroom so relaxed that she's raising her hand, she's participating, and making friends. It's been a tremendous blessing in our lives,” said Lisa Kunkel.
Students say she’s kind, helps them with their work and she understands their special needs.
“Mrs. Holen is probably the most understanding, helpful person that you'll find,” said Bob Brauneisen, principal of Castaic Middle School.
When Holen recently applied for a teacher appreciation award given out by local car dealers, she asked that all the teachers at her school be recognized through the renovation of the rundown faculty lounge.
After layoffs and budget cuts, Holen thought it would be a boost for everyone in the school.
When TODAY paid her a visit, she didn’t know her submission had won. Over the weekend, the teachers' lounge was secretly renovated, and cameras captured Holen’s joyous reaction when the new room was revealed.
“Thank you so much for granting our wish,” Holen exclaimed.
But there were more surprises ahead. TODAY flew in her daughter Jessy from college to reunite the whole family for Mother’s Day.
And knowing that Holen’s classroom was one of the only classrooms in the school without computers, Google provided 20 new laptops for her students.
“I am humbled and grateful,” Holen said.