BRANDON – On Aug. 4, in the middle of Staples at Regency Square, Rodney Burton heard God speak to him.
“He said, ‘There’s someone here you need to do something for,’” said Burton. “I felt like He was talking about a teacher.”
Burton lives in Valrico and attends The Crossing Church.
“It’s a respect thing. They give so much, every day,” he said. “They should be the highest-paid people out there. They inspire kids, transform parents and change lives for good, never knowing the impact one conversation might have. Why not give back to the people who give so much?”
He looked around and thought, there’s got to be a teacher in here, but how do I find one?
When Burton and his wife, Audra, got in line at the register, “this lady in front of me had so much stuff in her basket; I thought she’s got to be a teacher.”
The woman was Brandon-resident Sharon Leto, a science teacher for Hillsborough High School’s International Baccalaureate program.
“The most wonderful thing happened,” she said. “While I waited in line, the man behind me asked if I was a school teacher. When I said yes, he said, ‘Today is your lucky day! I’m going to pay for everything in your cart.’
“My cart was full, but he didn’t seem to care,” said Leto. “He said, ‘We don’t do enough for our teachers,’ and he just wanted to pay it forward. …I was speechless and moved to tears, right there in the checkout line.”
Burton, a personal trainer and award-winning bodybuilder, said it seemed like the right thing to do.
He owns Results Health and Nutrition, 626 Oakfield Drive, where he tries to give hope to people who’ve lost hope “and transform people who never feel like they’re good enough,” he said. “Life gets easier and a whole lot simpler when you feel good about yourself.”
Burton’s action amazed Leto, who has taught 26 years in Hillsborough County. She admitted she grumbles from time to time about funding cuts and morale-busting mandates.
Science teachers can’t requisition science-experiment items such as liver and flowers or basic supplies like construction paper, tissues, soap, paper towels, scissors, glue and rulers, so Leto, like many teachers, buys them with her own money.
“There used to be reimbursement,” she said, “but that’s been gone for years.”
People who want to help teachers may visit www.donorschoose.org and www.adoptaclassroom.org, she said.
Send stories of community interest to Barbara Routen at Neighbors@tampabay.rr.com.