It was 3 a.m. and Chicago high school teacher LaShonda Carter saw a Facebook message pop up from a former student.
Larresha Plummer, 18, had given birth three weeks earlier. She said she hadn’t eaten in days and was running low on formula for her infant. She needed help getting to a job fair the following morning. Things sounded desperate.
“I told her I’d be there in the morning. Send me the address,” Carter, 37, said.
Several hours later, on Aug. 23, Carter had picked up Plummer, dropped her off at the job fair and was sitting in her car with Plummer’s baby girl, Taliyah. Carter cuddled the infant and fed her, then decided to make a Facebook Live video.
“I’m holding a baby in my arms. This is not my baby. … Sometimes as a teacher, our job goes beyond the classroom,” Carter begins. “This is the part most people don’t know that educators do. It’s another part of being an educator that I don’t think people ever see.”
The video, with her heartfelt sentiment and her expansive idea of being a high school teacher, has gotten a lot of attention on Facebook.
Andee Gaudiano-Nelson commented: “You are an amazing human being. Thank you for being an angel among us. You rock!”
Joseph Hall commented that Carter is “one of the best teachers on earth a child could ask for. You have gone above and beyond. Thank you.”
Carter had dropped her plans for that day and made child-care arrangements for her own daughter so she could give Plummer a hand.
On the video, she asked her “village” to please donate clothes, diapers or other items for the baby.
“She’s a young teenage mom, and she needs some help,” Carter says in the video. “I want my previous student to know she can be successful even though she’s a teenage mother. A teenage mother does not equal failure.”
After the job fair, which took about an hour, Carter took Plummer to get some food and look into benefits through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
Since the video went big, Plummer has received several job offers, as well as clothes and supplies for Taliyah.
“I knew she needed help,” Carter said. “I’m a single mom; I struggle even on a teacher’s salary. I’d do this for all my students. If my kids need me, I’m there. Teaching goes beyond the classroom. The world is the classroom.”
But the beginning of their relationship was rocky. Carter was an earth science teacher at Harper High, a school where many students face poverty and where the graduation rate is 54 percent. As a 15-year-old sophomore, Plummer had a bad attitude, Carter said.
“She was a firecracker,” Carter said. “She was a very disrespectful child.”
The two barely spoke outside class. Then one day, Plummer came to Carter’s class crying. There was some trouble at home, and Plummer didn’t know who else to turn to.
“She knew she could trust me,” Carter said, adding that even after Plummer was expelled from school for a profane tirade directed at a staff member, they stayed in touch.
So when Plummer was in a difficult spot last week, she immediately thought of Carter.
“She knows how I feel about her; I tell her every day how much I appreciate her,” Plummer said. “She dropped everything she had to do that day and held my baby.”