This teacher is setting a new bar for what it means to go above and beyond for your students.
Helma Wardenaar was heartbroken to hear that her 10-year-old student, Maggie Vasquez, was unable to go on the class’s 3-day camping trip to Camp Sullivan in Oak Forest.
Since Maggie has cerebral palsy, her walker would be unable to maneuver the rough terrain of the wilderness.
Instead of allowing her student to miss out, however, Wardenaar simply offered to carry the 60-pound student on her back.
The educator from The Academy for Global Citizenship in Chicago, Illinois had debated the merits of simply renting a pony for Maggie, but since Wardenaar exercises regularly, she decided to buy a special $300 harness that would allow her to shoulder the youngster for the trip.
Wardenaar told PEOPLE: “When I showed it to Maggie her eyes became really big! She was like, ‘Ms. Helma! You found something?’ I showed it to her in the classroom so everybody saw and they were like, ‘Yay! Maggie can do this!’”
In addition to carrying Maggie for the 45-minute hike to the campsite, Wardenaar carried her student for 2 hours every day so they could explore the forest and do nature activities with the class.
“It was kind of heavy, but I’m strong and didn’t want to give up,” Wardenaar added. “Whenever I had moments when I was tired or huffing and puffing, she would sing songs or say positive words to me.”
While this may be an extraordinary act of kindness for some, Wardenaar says that it is simply part of her dedication to her students.
“We didn’t think twice about doing this for Maggie. It’s ingrained in the culture of our school to help each other and to help make the world a better place.”
If you’re feeling inspired by the teacher’s gesture, her school – which is specifically for special needs children – started a GoFundMe campaign to reimburse her for the harness and to raise money for classroom expenses.