Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres surprised first grade teacher Rachel Faust with a trip to Hollywood and a $100,000 check from JC Penney’s charitable foundation JCP Cares on Wednesday’s show.
The 24-year-old teacher had written to the show through it’s website about Van E. Blanton Elementary in Miami.
NBC 6 South Florida caught up with Faust fresh off her 24-hour whirlwind trip to Los Angeles, right after she surprised her kids with the mock check.
"Oh my gosh, they were blown away. I think the fact that it was just a huge check,” she said. “We talk about money, we're learning about money, so they definitely knew what it was. And I think I'm still working to wrap my mind around $100,000."
In the last year, Faust and other teachers and staff have paid out of pocket for school supplies to ensure students get the best education.
In a taped video that aired on today's show, Rachel shared the struggles her 6-year-old students face. Despite smiling faces, 99 percent live below the poverty line.
"She said I'm so sorry Miss Faust,” she recounted of one student she chastised for not paying attention in class. “’I know I'm not doing my best, I'm just so hungry. I missed breakfast and I haven't eaten since lunch yesterday.’"
At first, Faust thought she was just appearing in the Ellen show audience. She was surprised to find that she would be on stage with DeGeneres, and shocked when the host presented her with a huge gift.
Faust said the first thing she wants to do with the money is give her kids a playground. The elementary school does not have one, so students are forced to get creative on an empty field.
"A lot of hoola hooping, obstacle courses, duck duck goose," she added.
School principal Tangela Goa says Faust’s passion and dedication to students helps shield them from realities they face at home and in the classroom.
"Because of our teachers and because of the amazing things they do, I don't think the kids truly feel the effect of not having, because they've never had," said Goa.
Soon, they will.
Updated technology and building repairs are high on the list.