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Teacher becomes US citizen and all her previous students show up to support her

TODAY logo TODAY 1/23/2020 Samantha Kubota

An elementary teacher in Florida just became an American citizen — and she did it with the support of her entire school in the courtroom.

Annmarie Small came to the United States 18 years ago from Jamaica, dreaming of a better life for her and her son.

“I was struggling financially in Jamaica and even having a master’s degree, I wasn’t able to make ends meet,” she said.

She was hired to teach at Cornerstone Learning Academy in Tallahassee and in addition to a good job, she found a community that inspired her. In a speech to the courtroom as she became a U.S. citizen, she said her school was what taught her about being an American.

“They have shown me that America…is more than a place of glamour, fancy cars, red carpets, ball gowns and stilettos — though I do love my stilettos,” she said. “America is beyond just the material things.”

In the room were her fourth grade students, both past and present, to support their teacher. They all celebrated with a party afterward.

“I’m really proud of her and I think she’s pretty proud too,” one of Small’s current students, Kalliope, said.

a group of people sitting in a room: TODAY, product courtesy of merchant site

TODAY, product courtesy of merchant site
© Annmarie Small

Always the teacher, Small said she hopes her students always remember the main lesson she’s learned about the American dream.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re from a different country, everybody is the same,” she said.


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