When reflecting on her Freedom High School experience, Emma realized she found her passion for teaching in sophomore year and made a steadfast commitment to pursue it. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in music education from Florida State University, she returned to Orange County public schools and immediately started her teaching journey at Conway Elementary School.

Today, Emma is the music teacher at West Creek Elementary School, enriching the lives of 600 students a week, and soon, her first students will be attending her alma mater, Freedom High School.

This full-circle moment is not lost on Emma. Her journey into education is owed to her influential high school theater teachers. Beyond instilling the fundamentals of public speaking, movement, and a deep appreciation for The Arts, these mentors equipped Emma with crucial life skills. They guided her through the emotional uncertainty of life’s letdowns, starting with unsuccessful auditions and college rejections.

Sara was one of those teachers. In fact, Emma was one of Sara’s very first students. Now, for more than a decade, Sara has been cultivating her students’ passions in the arts with creative opportunities that allow their special talents to shine.

Sara (right) as a first-year teacher at Freedom High School

Emma (right) in her high-school production of “Annie”

As a student, Emma didn’t realize the support Sara and her fellow teachers were receiving to provide the extensive projects and production experience that fueled her passion for the arts and education. Supplies were readily available whenever she needed a pencil for notes or more pipe cleaners for a theater prop.

It wasn’t until Emma became a teacher herself that she realized where it all came from.

In my first year of teaching, I needed to get all the pencils, papers, and things for my students because they wouldn’t come to class with their supply boxes or backpacks because it was a “Specials” class.

When I went to A Gift for Teaching for the first time and realized that I can get all those things, and I didn’t have to take my paycheck to do it? It was amazing. Especially for new teachers that are trying to build up their supplies. It is literally life-changing. – Emma

As with many first-time educators, Sara also faced financial instability at the start of her teaching career. Now knowing the hidden treasures that can be found among the donated materials at A Gift for Teaching, she continues to make it a priority to visit the Free Teacher Supply Store every month for free supplies for her classroom and students.

Sometimes I see my students going through the same struggles as I previously did. One day, a student came in saying her backpack broke and her mother wasn’t going to buy a new one because there were only four months left of school.

I reminded her of my closet of supplies from A Gift for Teaching and she returned with a really nice multi-colored backpack with lots of pockets. She spent the next 10 minutes sitting with a huge smile on her face, excitedly filling all the pockets of her new backpack. – Sara

For Emma, being an Orange County public school student turned teacher is a profound opportunity. Teaching future leaders in the community she grew up in holds immense significance to her.

Over 25 years, A Gift for Teaching has made a generational impact on Central Florida’s future leaders by empowering educators with free educational resources.

To continue these innovative services for teachers and students for another quarter century, consider becoming a Classroom Hero today. Join our monthly giving community and your recurring $25 gift will be matched every month for an entire year!

Giving adds up – Be a Classroom Hero and your monthly gifts will go twice as far in making a difference in the lives of local teachers and students in six classrooms this year, including Emma’s and Sara’s.


(More Student Journeys, Teacher Legacies stories: Meet Ajay and Meet Terry)