BVH rallies together through GoFundMe in support of biology teacher

In+a+GoFundMe+created+for+Mrs.+McClain+on+Jan.+7%2C+2022%2C+BVH+works+together+to+ease+her+financial+worries.+As+of+Jan.+18%2C+2022%2C+%2428%2C467+has+been+raised.+

Jaime Jazo

In a GoFundMe created for Mrs. McClain on Jan. 7, 2022, BVH works together to ease her financial worries. As of Jan. 18, 2022, $28,467 has been raised.

Maddie Almodovar, Opinion Editor

Priscilla McClain– also known as Ms. Soto– has taught Biology at Bonita Vista High (BVH) for the last four years. Students and other biology teachers recognize the compassion and positivity she brought into the classroom. On Jan. 10th, Principal Roman Del Rosario Ed.D sent out a Jupiter message with a link to a GoFundMe page to support McClain’s fight against her diagnosis of stage 4 cancer. The community response was overwhelming with countless donations and heartfelt comments.

As of Jan. 21th, McClain’s fundraiser has garnered 342 donations, raised $30,820 and is continuously active. Rosario created the fundraiser near the end of winter break in order to support McClain and her family financially. 

“It became clear to me that even though they have medical insurance, [finances are still] a hardship because of the additional bills.” Rosario said. “What McClain needs [is] to focus on getting better. The more we help, [the less she’ll] be worried about how [they’re] going to afford this.”

In the past four years at BVH, McClain has made a significant impact on her students. Senior Mariana Marquez had McClain as a teacher back when she first joined the BVH science department team. Though she only had McClain for a semester, Marquez recognizes her influence as a teacher. 

“[McClain] is energetic, loving, passionate, kind and one of the most caring teachers you’ll ever meet. She wants the best for her students and all she wants is to create a unique atmosphere in the room that’s fun and brings joy into a classroom,” Marquez said. 

McClain’s apparent passion for teaching biology made Marquez “want to explore more ideas and concepts.” Her passion was clear to fellow colleagues as well, including Chemistry and Marine Biology teacher Kimya Mahzad and Accelerated Biology teacher Joseph Szakovits. Szakovits recalls her positive attitude when she first started teaching, despite her difficult situation.

She has such a big impact that so many of us stood up and said, ‘I want to do this with her, I want to fight next to her.’”

— Senior Mariana Marquez

“You’re never quite sure when someone new comes, [but] she was so open and accepting of everything. When she first jumped in as a teacher here, she had to teach in three different classrooms because we didn’t have a permanent classroom for her. I remember thinking, ‘How was it, that this person who has the hardest job of all of us, is the most positive and lifts everyone else up?’” Szakovits said. 

Mahzad was one of the teachers who McClain shared a classroom with during her first year of teaching at BVH. Outside of the classroom, Mahzad shares a story of the two on a camping trip for a weekend to the fault lines with community college students. According to her, it was the beginning of their friendship. 

“I mean, I haven’t done [physical activity] in a long time, but the two of us looked at each other with big eyes and [thought], “‘What did we sign ourselves up for?'” Mahzad said.

When Mahzad and Szakovits first heard of McClain’s cancer diagnosis, their initial reactions were similar. The impact that McClain has had on their lives reflected their disbelief and devastation at the news. Soon after the creation of the GoFundMe, many students posted the fundraiser’s link on social media platforms; Marquez being one of those students.

“I can’t remember the date or time when I saw my friends repost the [fundraiser] on social media. After I read it, I had to take a moment to reread and say, ‘This is the teacher that I very much love and has impacted me so greatly,’” Marquez said. 

Szakovits says the fundraiser has “exceeded his expectations,” referring to the extending financial goals. Marquez realizes the importance of donating, but also recognizes that reposting  “is just as powerful as actually donating because you’re outreaching.”

“Seeing the community rally around like this is a good reminder as to why I love being at Bonita. Seeing how many people care. People who donated that don’t even know Priscilla did it because this is someone who’s part of this community,” Szakovits said. 

The fundraiser is still active and Mary Lou Soto, McClain’s mother, recently left a comment regarding McClain’s state. While McClain is on sick leave, the family has been “overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and donations,” according to her comment on GoFundMe.com.

Mahzad keeps close contact with McClain and shared her reaction towards the numerous donations and comments. Mahzad believes the fundraiser is effective and constantly checks on its progress. 

“Honestly, it’s about time that these messages got to her because we’ve been waiting a while to  share this news […] Many of us knew that if the students got involved, that love would get to her and send her positive vibes [to] help her heal faster,” Mahzad said.

This piece was updated on Jan. 21, 2022.