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SONIC Limeades for Learning December Teacher of the Month: Building Meaningful Relationships Beyond the Classroom 

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By Jessica Shock

Rebecca Blumenfeld spent her high school Spanish class enthralled by her teacher’s stories of travel and adventure. These “travel stories” inspired her to double-major in Spanish at college and to eventually become a high school Spanish teacher herself. She’s spent more than 13 years teaching Spanish in Birmingham, Alabama, where she has created many travel opportunities for her own students.

“It’s one of the greatest ways I stay inspired as an educator,” says Rebecca. “Traveling with students outside of the classroom – touring businesses and colleges, attending plays and dance shows, and even going abroad – allows us to share experiences together and encourages me to continuously seek out new learning opportunities for my students.”

Class Field Trip to Costa Rica

The first field trip Rebecca planned for her students was to the Hispanic Flamenco Ballet, followed by lunch at a traditional Mexican restaurant. “It set the path for many more to come,” remembers Rebecca. “Building relationships with my students has become my go-to way to encourage them to engage when we’re back in the classroom.”

As an educator at the high school-level, Rebecca may teach students as early as ninth grade, allowing her to follow her students’ growth all the way through graduation and build those strong relationships. But she also recognizes the need to step back and make time for herself outside of work. “You can’t be an effective teacher if you’re running on fumes,” shares Rebecca. “You have to make time for your personal life. It’s very easy to get in a rut of working 10 or 15-hour days preparing lesson plans, tutoring students, and grading homework.”

One way Rebecca is able to step away is by leaning on community support. “Community members and businesses can help by investing in our students. Whether that’s an investment of time as a classroom guest speaker or by donating needed items to a classroom, it means the world to teachers to know that their community supports them and their students.”

For Rebecca, one of the best ways to raise your hand and secure this support is by posting projects on DonorsChoose. “Share your project and make it known in very clear words how it will benefit your students,” she says. “My favorite DonorsChoose project was funded by SONIC – it was actually that first field trip to attend the Hispanic Flamenco Ballet!”

SONIC’s Limeades for Learning initiative makes a difference in public schools across the country through the brand’s partnership with nonprofit DonorsChoose, to which the SONIC Foundation provides funding throughout the year in support of public school teachers and the great projects they’re creating in their classrooms. To share their innovative approaches to education, we’re spotlighting an educator each month to showcase the different ways they’re enriching their schools and communities.

Are you a teacher interested in securing funding through DonorsChoose? Visit To learn more about SONIC’s Limeades for Learning, visit

This story is part of an ongoing series.