Eight years ago, Cheyenne High School teacher Hela Naziri noticed one of her students staring as she ate a sandwich at her desk.
She could tell by his expression that he was hungry.
“I said, ‘Would you like my sandwich?’ and he just devoured it,” she recalls. “He told me, ‘I don’t eat much.’”
This act of kindness sparked something bigger with the passionate educator.
Recognizing that many students at her Title 1 school have similar situations, Naziri created a food pantry in her classroom where students can help themselves to meals and snacks every day, “no questions asked.”
She has also helped oversee and expand a SAVE Club (Students Against Violence Everywhere), through which students participate in year-round community service. This includes volunteering at Three Square Food Bank, holding blanket drives and fundraising to cover students’ fees for AP exams.
“I want to teach kids just to be a good person,” Naziri says.
She received well-deserved recognition for these efforts and more at The Smith Center’s second-annual Heart of Education Awards, where she was one of 20 Clark County School District (CCSD) teachers honored with an award.
Naziri also received a $5,000 cash prize — and she knew just what to do with it.
“It all went back to my students,” she says.
Nominate a Teacher Today
Know an inspiring CCSD teacher like Naziri?
Southern Nevadans have until January 18, 2018 to nominate educators for The Smith Center’s third-annual Heart of Education Awards at www.TheHeartofEducation.org.
The program, powered by The Rogers Foundation, honors CCSD teachers who go above and beyond.
Hundreds of nominees will be honored at a red-carpet event at The Smith Center in April, 2018, which will feature spectacular entertainment and swag bags for all nominees.
The top 20 teachers will each receive an award and a cash prize of $5,000, plus a $1,000 donation to a school program of their choice.
A Night to Remember
Naziri was actually first nominated in 2016, but didn’t win at the time.
This serves as a reminder to nominate teachers again this year, if they didn’t win in prior years.
“I felt like a celebrity walking through the doors,” Naziri remembers of the event. “When my name was called, I was frozen and I was crying and I was so emotional. It was life changing for me.”
She accepted her award just in time to chaperone that same night at her school’s prom – where she had paid for a limo for a group of students who couldn’t otherwise afford this prom experience.
The award reminded her that all of her efforts are valued.
“This award is a stepping stone to letting teachers know they’re doing what they should be doing,” Naziri says.
Paying It Forward
Naziri donated all of her $5,000 cash prize to her students, helping them pay for college application fees and college tuition. She also purchased more food for her classroom pantry.
“This is what teaching is,” she says. “You have to be there for students in every way possible.”
Make A Difference
Anyone can nominate an outstanding CCSD teacher for The Smith Center’s third-annual Heart of Education Awards at www.TheHeartofEducation.org.
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