Michael Bonner — a teacher in North Carolina — had gone viral on social media thanks to the unique way he teaches and keeps the attention of students when doing so: rapping. To help Bonner continue this innovative method (one that works, to boot), Ellen brought him on the show and gifted some electronics so he could record and edit more videos with his students, as well as a check for $25,000.
Akbar Cook — a principal in Newark, New Jersey — caught Ellen’s attention for getting washers and dryers installed at the school as well as coming up with a program called Lights On that gives students a safe place to stay during dangerous hours at night. These initiatives helped students have clean clothes as well as prevents them from becoming victims of gun violence. For this, Ellen surprised Cook by giving him a check for $50,000 to help his school.
After pulling off a hilarious spelling test as an epic April Fool’s Day joke on his students, Joey Dombrowski — a teacher in Royal Oak, Michigan — got to meet Ellen, who turned the tables on him and administered a crazy spelling test. Though the gag was great, it was all a setup for Ellen to hand over two checks for $10,000 each to Dombrowski: one for him and one for his school.
Emily Francis immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala at the age of 15 and learned to speak English thanks to watching Ellen’s talk show. Now, Francis is an ESL (English as a second language) teacher in North Carolina, where she helps her students value their culture as well as learn their new culture. Ellen donated $100,000 to help out the students via a backpack program.
To help celebrate her monumental 60th birthday, Ellen decided she would give out the biggest monetary gift she had ever given out on the show: $1 million for the whole audience to split. While everyone in the audience was deserving in one way or another, one teacher (Lori Gaines) was called out of the group individually for donating her kidney so that she could help a student’s mother live. Wow!
Ellen couldn’t resist helping out Wyatt Oroke — a teacher in Baltimore, Maryland — upon hearing more about him. Like most teachers, Oroke uses his own money to buy stuff for his students, one of which he lost to gun violence. To thank him for all he does for his students, Ellen revealed that $25,000 would be donated in order to help the school do more to help the next generation succeed.
Sonya Romero — a teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico — joined Ellen in front of the cameras, and it was revealed that she ensures her students have what they need to get by and even fosters two of them herself. To support Romero for all that she does, Ellen — who was brought to tears by the backstory — handed over two checks for $10,000 each, one for her and one for her school.
Jordan Siragusa — a teacher in North Carolina — was brought up after Ellen revealed that she had been trying to get tickets to her show for 10 years. Siragusa said she was inspired to become a teacher by one of her own teachers and that she loves helping her students achieve in the classroom. As a surprise, Ellen gave Siragusa a full-ride scholarship so that she can get her master’s degree in education.
Thanks to Lenair Young — a basketball coach in Brooklyn, New York — has helped numerous students get free college educations thanks to an after-school program called Drill Masters. To thank him for his hard work, Ellen presented Young with a check for $20,000 — after shooting some hoops with one of the students in the program — that would go to help make Drill Masters even better.
Alan and Lauren
Engaged teachers Lauren and Alan potentially wouldn’t be together had it not been for Ellen, as they bonded over their love of the talk show host on their very first date. The two were called to the stage on Teacher Appreciation Day 2016 and explained how they had been saving for their wedding since 2014 — you know, because of being on a teacher’s salary — and that they live paycheck to paycheck. To help out, Ellen gave them a total of $50,000 to help pay off their student loans and to help pay for their wedding.
Natasha Campbell and Cheryl Lundy Swift
Natasha Campbell and Cheryl Lundy Swift — the respective founder and principal a Summit Academy Charter School in Brooklyn, New York — have been helping most kids in their school go to college in a neighborhood that has only 4 percent of people in the community with college degrees. To celebrate this accomplishment, Ellen handed over a check for $25,000 to these ladies so they can help ensure that they have the resources to continue helping their students.
Brittany, Melissa, and Victor
What’s better than one or two teachers? Three teachers! Ellen brought a trio of very deserving educators — Brittany, Melissa, and Victor — to the stage to play a wacky game of “Don’t Leave Me Hanging.” While there was technically only a sole winner of the goofy game, Ellen gifted all of them a stash of school supplies for their respective classrooms and also presented each of them with a check for $10,000.