The Slatest

Airline Passengers Donate $530 to Teacher Overheard Talking About Low-Income Students in Need of Supplies

A Southwest Airlines plane lines up with other aircraft on the tarmac
Eva Hambach/Getty Images

A Chicago elementary school teacher who found herself chatting with a stranger about her students on a recent flight to Florida wound up with more than $500 in unsolicited donations to her school after several other passengers overheard her talk about low-income immigrant parents struggling to provide food and supplies for their children.

The teacher, Kimberly Bermudez, was on a flight to visit her parents when her seatmate asked her what she did for work. According to a Facebook post she wrote on Wednesday, her seatmate asked her what the hardest part of her job was. “I told him that working at a low-income school can be heartbreaking,” she said.

She later told the Washington Post that all her first-graders came from low-income families, and that many come to school hungry and some are homeless. She praised the parents, who would “go without for their child,” but said teachers and administrators often have to use their own money to help buy school supplies and other necessities for the children.

According to her Facebook post, after she told her seatmate about her students, he told her that his company donates to schools and asked for the contact information of her charter school, Carlos Fuentes Elementary. Then, according to Bermudez, “something amazing happened”:

The man behind me tapped my shoulder. I turned around and he apologized for listening in to my conversation, and he handed me a wad of cash. He told me to “do something amazing” and sat back down. … I realized that there was $100 on top, and started to cry. I thanked him and told him how I would buy my students books and give back to the community. I didn’t count the money from that man, but I would later find out that he gave me $500.

When the plane landed, a man in the aisle across from her told her he had also listened to her conversation, and he gave her $20. A third man gave her $10. “I started crying on the plane,” Bermudez wrote. “I told all four men that I would do something amazing for the kids.”

According to the Post, Bermudez’s Facebook post about the incident inspired some friends to send her supplies and books. She told the Post that she plans to use the $530 to buy backpacks and other supplies for her students, as well as new books for the students to practice reading while they are at home.