Celebrity salutes teacher who's a study in generosity

If you stay in the trenches long enough, you just might get rewarded.

Such was the case Monday at Curiale School, when Lorraine Mondi, a second-grade teacher in Bridgeport for more than two decades, was surprised by a visit from Comedy Central personality Michael Ian Black.

The star of the program, "Michael and Michael Have Issues," came to the school to present Mondi with about $1,000 in school supplies, a new chair, a printer, a digital camera and more.

"Oh, look -- tissues," Mondi said as she was unpacking the out-sized box of supplies she was awarded. "Glue sticks -- Yaaaay!" Her 20 students helped her unpack the box.

Mondi was one of 1,000 teachers nationwide surprised with the free supplies and celebrity visits from OfficeMax, a national retailer. The giveaway was staged to draw attention to the fact that some teachers typically spend hundreds of dollars every year out of their own pockets for school supplies -- $1,000 is the national average, according to the company. All of these surprise visits took place Monday, according to an OfficeMax statement.

"She's just so conscientious, just fantastic," said Curiale School Principal Audrey I. Skoda. "You might have noticed that just today she brought in a new bookcase for her classroom that she bought herself."

Supt. of Schools John Ramos said that there is $22,000 for supplies in the education budget, but that actual need is about $500,000.

"We encourage

our principals, teachers, support staff and others to project their needs so there are not any last-minute item expenses," he said. "The need is great and we truly appreciate donations like this received from our partners, companies, nonprofits and individuals to benefit our scholars."

Black, known for a dead-pan portrayal of an office worker, presented Mondi with flowers, too.

"Our show takes place in an office, and OfficeMax supplied many of the items you see on the set," Black said. "So they approached me and asked me if I'd like to participate in this, and I said, 'Of course.' It's a really great program."

Black, who lives in Ridgefield, had his own two children in tow, first-grader Ruth and third-grader Elijah.

This is the third annual give-away of supplies that OfficeMax has conducted; it's a program that the retailer calls, "A Day Made Better."

"She's always buying prizes and materials for art lessons. You name it and she's buying it for her kids," Skoda said.

"Thank you, very much," Mondi said. "This is one day that I'll never forget."

Credit: Connecticut Post, Bridgeport

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