Acts of Kindness
77-year-old substitute teacher living in his car receives gift from former student
"Am I dreaming?"
Rebecca Reid
11.10.21

A great teacher makes a lasting impact.

Jose Villarruel had been a substitute teacher for decades in Fontana, California, and his students adored him. His warm personality and his genuine concern for their wellbeing stuck with them years after they had graduated. Villarruel had made a choice to live in his blue thunderbird 8 years ago so that he could give most of his earnings to his wife, children, and extended family living in Mexico. There is no doubt that Villarruel was a very thoughtful man who put the needs of others first.

YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles
Source:
YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles

A former student recognizes Villarruel.

Former student, Steven Nava, was walking to work one day when he noticed Villarruel. He thought he looked familiar but wasn’t sure. After walking over to say hi, Nava realized that it was in fact his former teacher, whom his fellow students lovingly called, ‘Mr. V.’ The 21-year-old was elated to see him but was ‘devastated and gutted’ to see Villarruel’s living conditions. “It’s sad to see one of your own teachers go through that.” – Nava told Fox 11 Los Angeles

YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles
Source:
YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles

“I submitted my resignation.”

Mr. V told Nava that the school had cut substitute hours while kids went remote during the pandemic. “I decided the school situation has changed completely and I believed that a job of a substitute was over…In May, I submitted my resignation. I managed to do all of the paperwork, all of the arrangements to get my pension. I got my check, but that check didn’t last long because I had debts already.” – Villaruel, mypositiveoutlooks.com, Fox 11 Los Angeles

YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles
Source:
YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles

Nava gives him the money out of his pocket.

Feeling the need to do something for his favorite teacher, Nava gave Villaruel $300. “He gave me this big old smile and said, ‘Thank you so much…He came over to give me a hug and as he was hugging me, I saw a little tear run down his face.” – Nava mypositiveoutlooks.com

YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles
Source:
YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles

A promise is made.

Before parting ways, Nava told Villaruel that he would do anything he could to help him. A GoFundMe page was set up and within a couple of hours, it was up to $5,000. There were so many people who wanted to help their beloved teacher. Nava even made a TikTok video about Mr. V that went viral.

YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles
Source:
YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles

The community comes together to help one of their own.

A celebration was organized to honor Villaruel with the support of Fontana Mayor, Acquanetta Warren. Former students including Nava and community members held the event on March 11, which just happened to be Villaruel’s 77th birthday. With music playing and balloons flying, this was a day when Villaruel was put first.

YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles
Source:
YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles

“Everybody always recognizes him cause when he would go into the classroom he always had just such good energy.” – a former student of Villaruel told Fox 11 Los Angeles

YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles
Source:
YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles

Villaruel receives a check for $27,000

On the day of his celebration, Villaruel is surprised when Nava along with others present the GoFundMe check for $27,000. Nava hugs his old teacher and Villaruel is overcome with gratitude.

YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles
Source:
YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles

“Am I dreaming?” (I have) an obligation that I need to do a lot for the world yet and the greatest feeling is I can do it and I’m going to find ways of doing it.” – Villaruel told Fox 11 Los Angeles

YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles
Source:
YouTube screenshot - Fox 11 Los Angeles

Now watch this inspiring video of how one act of kindness turned this teacher’s life around.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

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By Rebecca Reid
hi@sbly.com
Rebecca Reid is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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