GMA surprises Plymouth substitute teacher with special gifts during Teacher Appreciation Week

Plymouth substitute teacher honored on national TV

Plymouth substitute teacher honored on national TV

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Good Morning America is honoring educators, and on Monday, the GMA crew stopped by Plymouth Middle School with a surprise that was four months in the making for a substitute teacher. 

Michael Peterson retired two years ago after working for nearly 30 years as a custodian at Plymouth Middle School. Peterson shocked the community when he returned to the school not as a custodian but rather as a substitute math teacher. Peterson earned his bachelor’s degree in his spare time, and he’s currently working towards his master’s degree. 

“These kids need help. I love if they can’t figure out stuff that I can sit down and help them. If I can only help just one,” Peterson told GMA. 

Students say they are thankful because Peterson treats them like they’re family.

“He connects more with the kids. He’s more willing to talk to us and not just sit there and be like, ‘Oh, I have to babysit these kids.’ No, he’s interacting with us and making us laugh, and we’re just all having a good time,” said Virginia Smit, a student. 

Freedom Trotter, a school climate and culture specialist at the school, said Peterson has always been a teacher even before his new role. 

“I would say he was a teacher before he actually became a licensed teacher. And so, it started with building those relationships with students, and it carried on into the classroom,” said Trotter.

Peterson’s degree is coming into use when schools across the nation are in dire need of more teachers. 

“When we were coming back from the pandemic, we needed substitute teachers. We were desperate,” said Spanish teacher Paula Engel. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports close to 600,000 substitute teachers cover over 30 million teacher absences. 20 percent of requests for substitutes go unfilled. 

On Monday, GMA gifted Peterson free Ace Hardware tools so he can continue to do what he loves at school and home. GMA also made a $10,000 donation under Peterson’s name to the Seven Dreams Foundation, a foundation that helps the students of Robbinsdale Area schools by funding innovative educational programs and grants. 

“I have a philosophy. I want to help people succeed, and if I can help them figure out things in a different way, that’s what I like doing,” Peterson said.