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OfficeMax showers Nile Garden teacher with supplies
Nile Garden School teacher Melonie Martinez-Arce, surrounded by some of her fourth- and fifth-grade students, sits in her ergonomic new chair as she holds her bouquet of roses which were part of her surprise A Day Made Better award from OfficeMax. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Christmas came early for Nile Garden School teacher Melonie Martinez-Arce.

On Tuesday, Santa made a surprise visit to her school and presented her with two huge boxes of school supplies worth $1,000 plus an ergonomic chair and a bouquet of long-stemmed, rainbow-colored fresh roses in a vase.

Santa, in this case, was OfficeMax which honored and recognized Martinez-Arce with the annual award as part of the retailer’s “A Day Made Better” national cause event.

A tearful Martinez-Arce reacted in disbelief when it was announced that she was the teacher in the Manteca Unified School District selected to receive the award this year. The announcement was made in the Nile Garden School library where the 10-year Cougars teacher and her combined fourth- and fifth-grade students gathered Tuesday morning, along with four representatives from the Manteca OfficeMax store and Principal Deborah Noceti.

“I’m excited! This is exciting!” said an overwhelmed Martinez-Arce smiling through her tears. She was visibly at a loss for words but her tears spoke volumes.

She has been a teacher for 11 years, with the last 10 years at Nile Garden.

Noceti said Martinez-Arce earned the award for going “above and beyond” her regular duties as a teacher.

“I always rely on her,” Noceti said.

When the school had to institute class-size reduction, Noceti said Martinez-Arce was moved from the primary grades to the intermediate level to take on the combined fourth- and fifth-grade class.

“She totally took on the challenge,” Noceti said.

In addition to her regular duties as a teacher, Martinez-Arce makes time to tutor students after school. She also organized the Student Store and helped with the school’s yearbook, said Noceti, enumerating some of the reasons why Martinez-Arce was singled out for the award.

Comments made by some of her students provided additional reasons why Martinez-Arce was deserving of the recognition and award.

“Mrs. Arce is a great teacher. She helps you learn. She’s a very awesome teacher,” said Kaileah Johannsen.

“She disciplines me very greatly, but she’s just doing her job,” commented student Holden Fishburn.

Explaining why Nile Garden School was selected for “A Day Made Better” this year, Manteca OfficeMax store manager Kirk Haron said, “This was the only school that we haven’t visited yet.”

This is the fifth year they have given away the award, he said. Last year, the recognition and award went to Stella Brockman Elementary School.

The OfficeMax program honors 1,000 teachers every year “for their extraordinary efforts in the classroom” with the surprise deliveries worth a total of one million dollars.

Erasing teacher-funded classrooms

“OfficeMax understands the challenges that teachers face every day,” charged with high expectations for performance on the job while being provided with limited resources and budgets, assistant store manager Frederick Jones said, explaining the reason behind OfficeMax’s A Day Made Better founded in 2007 in partnership with the non-profit Adopt-A-Classroom.

“We know that teachers spend an average of $1,000 of their own money for classroom supplies every year. OfficeMax has decided to come directly to teachers to recognize all that you do. We’re working to erase teacher-funded classrooms,” Jones said during the presentation of the award.

After the surprise presentation, Martinez-Arce was given the opportunity to make an inventory of the contents of the two boxes as the OfficeMax representatives, which included sales associates Josh Burns and Jordan Holbrook, looked on.

“Oh, wow! We need this hole puncher,” Martinez-Arce at one point.

“It’s like an early Christmas!” she exclaimed.

One of the boxes contained items that were generously donated by members of the community, Jones explained.

Included in the box from OfficeMax were a digital camera and a labeling machine.

Since its maiden launch in 2007, OfficeMax’s “A Day Made Better” and Adopt-A-Classroom have helped more than 4,500 classrooms throughout the United States with more than $4.5 million in grants and school supplies. The partnership has also helped secure funding for more than 66,000 classrooms annually through donations to Adopt-A-Classroom.