WASHINGTON – Many young students look to their teacher for reading, writing and math lessons, but one D.C. teacher is connecting with his students beyond the classroom to change their lives for the better – some would even call him a hero.
“Ohhhh, Mr. Dias! What do I say about Mr. Dias,” said Darlene Craft-Jackson with a smile. She’s also known as grandma to all the students and staff at Aiton Elementary School in Northeast, D.C.
And if you met 26-year-old Alejandro Diasgranados, or Mr. Dias as the kids call him, you wouldn’t know how to describe him or the fantastic work he has does for the school and community either.
To the students…
“He's the best teacher ever in the whole wide world like the whole earth,” said Markia Gaither, one of Mr. Dias’ current third grade students.
“I really love that Mr. Dias gets us stuff that we need and if we don't have it, he'll buy it,” added another one of his third grade students, Kaitlen Session.
The “stuff” he gets them includes hundreds of books, classroom iPads, field trips to museums in the Nation’s Capitol and so much more.
Earlier this year, he started a GoFundMe page to raise money to bus his students from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore to attend his graduate school graduation from Johns Hopkins University. While they were in downtown Baltimore, they went to the aquarium and because it’s Mr. Dias a lunch was provided.
He gives his students all the exposure he can so that they can make good choices and have bright futures.
“The school is a safe haven for a lot of them,” Mr. Dias said. “A lot of them come from homes where things aren't always great, so I have to make sure that their 40 hours in this school are fantastic.”
Mr. Dias makes his students' obstacles his personal problems. Over the summer, Mr. Dias saw a $10,000 grant from the Washington Redskins that would provide the school with a laundry center called “Loads of Love.”
He just graduated from his master’s program, was enrolled in night school for another certificate, was the lead for the summer school program and wasn’t sure he’d be able to apply for the rigorous, competitive grant.
Then he put himself in his students' shoes. Keep in mind, his students walk to school, have recess and are required to wear a uniform and not every student has enough uniforms for each day of the week.
Mr. Dias wore the same un-cleaned outfit for two days in a row to see what it would feel like and he didn’t like it.
“I felt unsafe,” expressed Mr. Dias. “I felt low. I went to the bathroom and checked myself and really felt low about myself. That was really the turning point for me, it was one day, for those students it's every day and they are unable to wash.”
So, he applied for the grant and in October, he learned they got it.
“He wants what's best for every child in this school, even things he knows he has to go above and beyond [for],” said the school nurse, Ms. Moore.
Above and beyond is the goal Mr. Dias sets for his students. Despite the obstacles the students face at home or in their community, he wants them to excel and make their dreams come true.
“They mean the world to me, my kids are amazing,” said Mr. Dias. And this is why he is one of WUSA9's neighborhood heroes.