TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) -- Englewood Elementary School teacher Shanel Brown was floored when she found out she was this week's recipient of a $1000 grant from CBS42's "One Class At A Time' program.
Once she finished hugging everyone in sight, Brown was ready to spend the grant money on virtual computer software.
"I wish I could take [her students] to Mars. I wish I could take them to Jupiter or to another quadrant of the universe, but I can't," Brown said of her students. "Technology can help me take them there virtually."
Brown also wants to buy her 5th grade students a Ray Optics Laser System, numerous science books, measurement tools and a dissection kit. She wants to buy these supplies so her students can keep exploring.
However, some people say it's a miracle that Brown is even in a position to accept the award in the first place.
Growing up in Camden, New Jersey, her family was homeless and lived in a car for six months.
She says her father was an alcoholic and beat her mother, who was on drugs.
Under the circumstances, learning was not her top priority.
Rather, Brown was merely focused on survival.
"I would come to school, and I would make sure my mom got us there early so I could eat breakfast," Brown said. "Then, between breakfast and lunch I couldn't focus on my studies. I was looking at the clock, [wondering] ‘What time is lunch?' And then I would dread the bell ringing for me to be dismissed from school, since I didn't know where I was going to lay my head at.
"When you learn, it will pull you out of poverty – any kind of poverty you can think of. It can be spiritual poverty, a mental poverty, physical poverty. It can pull you out of it when you're learning, when you have a thirst of learning, and so that's what I want to contribute back to the world."
Receiving the grant is a great example that she is doing just that, and the money she now has will only further the impact she will be able to make on her students.
Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42
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