Teacher turns award into lasting gift for students

SEATTLE -- It's amazing what six years of time and a check for $500 can do.

Back in 2006, Leslie Armstrong was chosen as Teacher of the Week by KOMO News. The award included a $500 check.

But the real story is what she's been able to do with that check. What started with a simple idea has grown to have a lasting impact on hundreds of kids at Kentwood High School every Friday morning.

President Woodrow Wilson once said, "No one can love his neighbor on an empty stomach."

"That has a lot to do with the underlying purpose for this," said Armstrong.

Every Friday, Armstrong turns her classroom into a breakfast hall.

"This Friday (tradition) is as much a gift to me as it is to them," she said.

It started six years ago when KOMO and the Mariners gave her $500. She asked her students how she should spend the money.

"And they wanted to have a meal together once a week, and I said, 'Guys, $500 -- we are going to blow through that in no time,"' said Armstrong.

They did it anyway.

It started with flapjacks for 15 kids.

"This classroom is not an industrial kitchen, although we turn out a pretty good breakfast with simple supplies," said Armstrong.

Soon kids who really needed a meal showed up, and the $500 was gone.

That's when volunteers stepped in. Vendors and Rotarians donated supplies, money.

"'Go and do the same is' what our motto is here," said Jim Tanasse, a volunteer with the Rotary Club of Covington. "There are a lot of kids that come through this line -- and you see them two or three times come through the line -- that wouldn't otherwise eat. And that's what we are really about doing."

Now Armstrong and her crew serve up to 200 kids every Friday morning.

"It's great to have breakfast in the morning and hangout with friends," said student Katie Berger.

Armstrong could have done anything with her $500 award. She chose the road less traveled.

"You know, biblically, you pass a basket, and it's not what you put in the basket to share; it's what comes out of the pockets of everybody that's inspired. And I think that's what really is happening," said Armstrong.

It's clear after seeing how students respond to her that she's a compassionate teacher who believes learning the lessons of life go way beyond the four walls of a classroom.