"Everybody always recognized him [Mr. V] because when he would go into the classroom, he always has such good energy and he would always be so sweet," a former student said
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on March 15, 2021. It has since been updated.
A former substitute teacher was living in his car when a former student spotted him and raised $27,000 to help him out, reported Fox News.
77-year-old Jose Villarruel was also known as "Mr. V" by his students who loved him and he had served as a substitute teacher for decades. Villarruel resigned early last year after schools shifted to distance learning. "I decided the school situation has changed completely and I believed that a job of a substitute was over. In May, I submitted my resignation. I managed to do all of the paperwork, all of the arrangements to get my pension. I got my check, but that check didn't last long because I had debts already," he said. Villarruel had been living out of his car ever since. "My body has been adapted to all of the bumps and things from the seat. It serves me as transportation, serves as a dining room, and serves as a bedroom," he said.
That is when his former student, Steven Nava, found him. "I usually see him almost every single day and it got me thinking, 'I've got to talk to him and know his situation.' I was just devastated and gutted by the reality of the pandemic and how it has left teachers without a job and this is one of the results and it's sad to see one of your own teachers go through that so it only makes you want to help out more," he said.
Nava said he distinctly remembers Villarruel helping him during his school years. "I said to him you helped me work on my study guide and you helped me eventually pass a math test," he said. Nava initially gave Villarruel $300, and then decided to start a GoFundMe page to help Villarruel a lot more. He shared it all over social media, including TikTok where the story went viral with over 1.7 million views. "It's just the power of social media is so big now and sometimes we need to use it for good, and not for bad," he said. The word spread to the Mayor of Fontana, Acquanetta Warren. Warren, who is also a former student of Villarruel. Many of his students gathered at the Fontana Community Senior Center to celebrate the beloved teacher. "Everybody always recognized him [Mr. V] because when he would go into the classroom, he always has such good energy and he would always be so sweet," said Melissa Lopez, another student that the man had helped years ago.
A 77-year-old teacher in California who has been living in his car received an unexpectedly generous birthday present from one of his former students. https://t.co/LioPMHo9Zm— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) March 14, 2021
Villarruel was presented with a $27,000 check, along with other gifts at the celebration. "My initial thought was, "Am I dreaming?' I still can't get over this experience," he said. "The greatest feeling that I have right now is like an obligation that I need to do a lot for the world and the greatest feeling is I can do it and I'm going to find a way to do it," he added, reported Fox news.