December 8, 2012 in Washington Voices

Teacher opens her home to children left at fire station

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Lisa Leinberger photo

Special education teacher Elisha Erickson, left, talks with kindergartener Scott Bradley over lunch Wednesday at East Farms STEAM Magnet School.
(Full-size photo)

The Spokane Valley Fire Department awarded Elisha Erickson an Outstanding Citizen Award for helping one of her students when it was needed the most.

On Nov. 12, a man dropped off an 8-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy at Fire Station 8 and said someone had left them with him and he couldn’t care for them. The staff didn’t have much information, but the girl told them a few things that could help.

She told station staff to call her teacher, Erickson.

Erickson is a special education teacher at East Farms Elementary School in the East Valley School District. When she received the phone call from the fire department she went to the station to help.

It turned out the children’s father had been in an argument with his wife. The father left and forgot his phone. A friend of the wife’s picked up the children and left them at the fire station.

After Erickson learned what had happened, she took the children home with her until Child Protective Services could be contacted and a solution could be found.

She took the children to school with her the next day and the father called her as soon as he found his phone, frantic to find his kids.

Erickson said the small family has been in the Valley HEART system for homeless families and the situation with the new wife was fairly recent. She said the relationship between her student and the father is strong.

“It didn’t seem like (him),” Erickson said of the girl’s father. “He knows her well, he loves her.”

Since then, the father and his two children have moved to a small community where he has family to help with the children. The wife is no longer in the picture. Erickson said she has been in contact with her student’s new teacher and she seems to be thriving in her new environment.

“She’s made just a ton of gains,” Erickson said.

Principal Tammy Fuller said this was a very unusual situation and what Erickson did isn’t required of teachers.

“Our staff is so amazing,” Fuller said. She added there are very few options for single dads in the area – there are shelters for single women and their children, but for dads, there aren’t many places to turn.

Deputy Chief Andy Hail praised Erickson for her act of kindness in his nomination letter to Fire Chief Mike Thompson.

“Ms. Erickson’s unselfish actions ensured that two children, who were seemingly abandoned, were provided the familiar and stable presence of a trusted adult in a very difficult situation. Her actions demonstrate a level of commitment, not only to her profession as an educator, but as an example of what is the highest level of citizenry – the selfless caring for those in need.”


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