Jackson teacher loses everything in house fire; 4th graders step up to help

Updated: May. 6, 2020 at 10:50 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Two unlikely sources of help came out of nowhere for Obama Magnet School second grade teacher Stephanie Dees after she and her husband lost their home in a fire on Good Friday.

Two upcoming fourth graders showed the world that in their selflessness, they are Mississippi Strong.

On the Saturday before Good Friday and Easter Sunday, DeNahri Middleton’s family was watching the news when they saw a house fire. His mother thought she saw someone familiar.

“She think it was Ms. Dees, so we looked at the video and saw Ms. Dees and started to donate money for her,” he said.

It didn’t take much for Stephanie Dees and her husband to find out what had transpired.

“I found out the next day that one of my little students, De’Nahri Middleton, had set up a GoFundMe account to support us,” she said.

Dees had taught Middleton in second grade, and now he’s going into fourth. He’s a kidney disease survivor, and each year he holds a penny drive to go toward kidney research.

Dees said she and her classes are always at the front of that competition. She supports Middleton every year, and he saw the chance to give back.

Another former student, Braylan Brown, also stepped up to see what he could do for his favorite teacher.

“Well Ms. Dees, she lost everything in the fire, so I might as well give her some money so she can buy some new things like clothes, refrigerators, whatever she needs,” Brown said.

Brown and his mother brought Ms. Dees some supplies, but Braylan had another surprise.

“He reached into his pocket and pulled out another hundred, his mother didn’t even know he had it,” she said.

Brown had already donated $50 to the GoFundMe, too. Shocking though it was at their age, the boys were very clear on why they wanted to help their favorite teacher.

“She’s sweet, she’s kind and she’s nice,” Middleton said.

“She was always kind to me even though I was kind of a bad apple,” Brown said.

When asked what he means by bad apple:

“Sometimes I just wake up grumpy in the morning and I start off on a rough day and just seeing her makes me feel like my day is going to be just fine,” he said.

Obama Magnet principal John C. Johnson said he hopes they learned those values at school.

“Character building is very important and it says that they have observed this in others and that’s something they’re trying to emulate,” Johnson said.

“All I can say is thank you Lord for allowing those children to be in my life,” Dees said.

The Dees have also lost their black and white one-year-old poodle, Jack. They don’t know if he ran away during the fire or if he was trapped in the house.

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