This teacher worked in the same school her entire life, and only after her passing did they find out her real identity

Teachers have an incredible impact on our lives. We wouldn’t get through our childhood without them. Even if we didn’t like going to school, deep down we appreciate that we have to be there if we want to have a decent future. After all, you won’t get very far if you don’t learn your ABCs.


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Of course, how positively these teachers can affect our lives depends on how devoted they are to their jobs. People who aren’t that invested in educating their students aren’t going to leave a lasting impression on their children – not a good one, anyway. However, it’s those teachers who love what they do and care about improving the minds of the next generation that can really do great things for their students. A lot of the time when someone becomes passionate about improving their education, it’s because they had a teacher who got them excited to learn.

Via Cava was that teacher for a lot of her students. There was nothing that she cared more about than her job and helping to shape young minds. Her passion was working with special needs students to give them the help they weren’t always getting at school. She was a truly great woman, and when she passed away, her loss was felt by many in the Dumont school district.

However, while everyone admired Cava, there was a huge secret that she was hiding that no-one had been aware of. The whole time that she’d been teaching her children, she’d been doing something behind their backs that they weren’t expecting. The truth didn’t come to light until after Cava passed away, but when it did, it left the entire school district lost for words. This is one teacher who continued to surprise everyone long after she was gone.

An inspiration

Teachers are some of the most important people we’ll ever meet in our lives. School shapes not only our childhoods, but also our futures, and that’s all because of the work these people put in to educate us. Via Cava understood how important her job was. This teacher from New Jersey did everything she could to help her students, and it paid off. People viewed her as an inspiration, but there was a lot they weren’t aware of. It was only when she passed away that the truth was revealed.

Hard times

Cava’s always had a desire to help others. It’s likely because she’s lived through a lot of hardships herself. She knows how important a helping hand can be when things are rough. Cava grew up during the Great Depression when stock markets were at an all-time low. The economic instability at the time made life incredibly difficult, and the teacher spent many years struggling to cope without the money. The Depression completely changed her life more than anyone realized, even in the decades after it had ended.

Tight with money

The Great Depression had shown Cava just how precious money is. After the stock markets improved, the teacher continued to be tight with her money, never allowing herself to splurge on the things she wanted. Wherever possible, she’d use coupons and save herself a bit of extra money, and everyone noticed. They figured that she was simply being overly cautious and that it was all a result of the way that she’d grown up. She’d learned to be economical from a young age, and nothing was going to change that.

Avoiding luxuries

Although her friends understood her desire to save money, they couldn’t understand why she was so strict with herself. She wouldn’t even consider buying herself any luxuries, no matter how desperately she needed them. Richard Jablonski, one of her friends, remembers a time when she wouldn’t pay for hearing aids, despite an increasing need for them. He didn’t understand why she was so adamant that she couldn’t buy them, even though they weren’t unreasonably priced. If she was going deaf, surely hearing aids were a worthwhile purchase.

Forming friendships

As a teacher, Cava wasn’t desperate for money. She didn’t need to cut costs wherever possible, because she had a regular income. She’d been doing the job for years and striking up good relationships with every new class she taught. One student who she became close with was James Kennedy, who ended up becoming a principal at one of the schools in the Dumont district. He was only a seventh-grade English student when they met, but their relationship lasted for years outside of school.

Doing whatever it takes

Part of the reason that Cava and Kennedy became so close was that he could see how much she cared about her students. He saw her as an inspiration, and was in awe of the lengths she’d go to just to keep her kids happy. Cava would do things like arrange after-school clubs to keep kids entertained and learning, as well as assist them with post-graduation prep. She spent her life devoted to her students, and Kennedy wondered if there was anything she wouldn’t do for them.

Changing her focus

Although she began her career as a regular teacher, she soon found that her attention was better focused on those with special needs. So, she started teaching these children instead. She ended up working with them for 45 years before retiring in 1990. As someone who always wanted to help out those in need, it made sense why she’d decide to work with special needs children. For them, learning isn’t so easy, and a lot more patience and persistence is required to help them out. That summed up Cava perfectly.

A beloved teacher

Her friends figured that Cava was perfect for the job, especially thanks to her compassion. Although there were times when she could be a little strict – just like any teacher – she always had her kids best interests at heart. It was rare for someone to meet her, whether student, parent or faculty, and not fall in love with her. She radiated a charm that was easy to get along with. However, the whole time that she was winning people over, she was hiding a secret that would change things forever.

Lighting up the room

No-one that knew her would have ever thought anything was amiss with Cava. As Jablonski says, she had a way of “light[ing] up a room” which always left them awestruck by her. Her friend noted that people usually walked away smiling after having a conversation with her because she had a way of making them feel better about themselves. She definitely knew how to make people look on the bright side, and it made her a valuable asset in both her personal and professional life.

Uncanny memory

Not only was she incredibly kind and loving towards her students, but she rarely ever forgot a face either. Kennedy praised the “uncanny memory” that she had when it came to her kids, even when she hadn’t taught them in years. He also loved how positive she was, despite growing up in particularly tough times. From the way she acted with people, you wouldn’t think she’d suffered during the Great Depression. However, that time in her life had affected her much more than anyone had realized.

All is revealed

Eventually, there came a time for her secret to be revealed. However, it wasn’t until she passed away that the truth was discovered. It turned out that she’d been refraining from spending her money for one particular reason, and it was because there was something special that she wanted to give to her school district. Everyone who knew Cava was aware of her generosity, but this wasn’t something they’d ever imagined possible. They thought they were being tricked when they discovered exactly what the teacher had left behind.

A big donation

Cava wasn’t saving all her money for a rainy day. Instead, she was putting a little bit away each day so that she’d be able to gift a donation of $1 million to the school district after she passed away. She’d set up a savings account where all her money would go so that when she could no longer teach the students, they’d still have the help they needed. Schools can always use extra funding, particularly for their special needs departments, and Cava was determined to give it to them.

Sharing her plans

Although she’d kept her plans to herself, there was someone Cava had entrusted with her secret before her passing. She’d told Emanuele Triggiano, the Superintendent of the Dumont school district, about her intentions to donate $1 million, but he hadn’t believed her. It’s not exactly something that happens every day, and it’s a lot of money for one woman to raise by herself. However, after he received all the official paperwork, he realized that Cava had been deadly serious all those years ago. He couldn’t quite believe her immense generosity.

What people expected

People all across the district were amazed by Cava’s donation, but they weren’t surprised. Although the amount that she’d raised was astonishing, her decision to share that wealth with the school district was precisely what they expected of her. They knew that her students were her world, so it made sense that she’d want to help them even after she was gone. No-one could believe that she’d saved up so much money, though. Given how tight she’d always seemed with cash, they never imagined her to have any savings.

Helping those in need

It’s taken a long time for Via’s money to make it into the hands of the school district – seven years to be precise. Now that they’ve finally gotten a hold of it, though, they’ve set plans in motion to put it to good use. From 2019 onwards, there will be a post-high school scholarship equating to $25,000 given to one special needs graduate every year. The hope is that they’ll be able to maintain these scholarships for many years by setting up a fund to keep them going.

Making a difference

Thanks to these scholarships, children with special needs will continue to get the help they need, even after they finish high school. This can have a considerable impact on their lives, and it’s all because of the kindness shown by Cava. It’s not only her students that have benefitted from her big heart either. Jablonski also received a gift from his friend because of everything he’d done for her during their long friendship. This wasn’t something he’d be able to cash in at the bank, though.

Caught by surprise

The reveal of Cava’s savings came as a huge surprise to Jablonski, especially as the administrator of her estate. Despite the thirty years that they’d been friends, he’d never realized just how much money she was sitting on. Jablonski had certainly been lost for words when he discovered the truth, but it just made his feelings toward Cava grow even more. He felt honored to have been friends with this incredible woman, and being included in her will was the icing on the cake.

Passing it down

The school district may have gotten $1 million, but Jablonski got something just as great. In her will, Cava named her friend as the new owner of her house, including everything inside it. That’s a lot to leave one person, and Jablonski couldn’t get over how generous the former teacher had been in her will. He’s since given the house to his son, who now has somewhere to live with his wife and kids. We’re sure Cava would have appreciated him giving his grandkids a nice home to live in.

One of the greats

Cava’s generosity will be remembered for years, just like several other incredible people from history. She’s far from the first person to have donated millions of dollars upon passing away. In 2016, former secretary Sylvia Bloom gave away $8 million to charity, which is a lot for someone in her line of work to amass over the years. Ronald Read, a former janitor, gave away the same amount of money after he passed too, sending his donations towards his local library and hospital back in 2014.

Leaving behind a legacy

Although Cava might no longer be with us, her legacy will never be forgotten. People already thought she was incredible as a teacher, but her death just proved there was no end to her kindness. With any luck, the kids of the Dumont school district will make good use of the money that Cava donated and have better lives because of it. She might not be able to teach them anymore, but at least she’s shown that she’ll still be watching over them, even after she’s long gone.

Looking to the future

Hopefully, once the scholarships begin, the district will be able to fund enough money to keep them going indefinitely. Providing kids with the opportunity to continue learning is exactly what Cava intended when she started saving the money in the first place. She knows how hard it can be for people with special needs after they leave school because they face a lot of barriers. At least this way, it will be easier for some of them to create the future they’ve always dreamed of.

Restricted education

For the longest time, it was almost impossible for special needs children to progress in education past high school. Back in 1995, only a quarter of these students ended up in postsecondary education after they graduated. That’s a pretty small percentage, especially given how it’s increased over the years. Unfortunately, even though things have improved, there are still so many people with special needs who don’t have the means to progress in education. If there’s no money to provide the necessary help, there’s nothing that these students can do.

Dealing with dyslexia

This is a major problem for students with all kinds of disorders, including dyslexia. Stefanie Smith has discovered firsthand just how restrictive her problem can be when it comes to education. Her dyslexia is so severe that it took her an entire day to complete a college admissions test, something that should only really take a few hours. She’s lived with the disorder for her whole life, and it continually interferes with her life. However, that doesn’t mean she isn’t interested in getting the best education possible.

Why the money matters

It’s students like Stefanie who benefit most from the generosity of Cava and other people like her. $1 million can do so much for students with special needs, especially when you consider how many of them there are in the world. In 2016, there were 6.7 million students in public school who had some kind of disorder which affected their ability to learn. Imagine how many of these children wished to take their education to the next level, but they weren’t able to.

Giving away money

Via’s story is incredibly special, but it’s not necessarily unique. At least, not in the sense of people giving away money in their will. It’s fairly common around the world, with many preferring to pass their savings on to charities and other people who will benefit most from it. In both the U.S. and the U.K., it’s normal for people to make a donation in their will, even if they don’t give away all their money. If everyone did this, it would build up to a sizeable number.

Selfish actions

The reason that a lot of people give away money is that their ego motivates them. Although donating to charity might seem like a selfless act, it’s a little more self-indulgent when people do it to show others how generous or wealthy they are. However, that clearly wasn’t the case with Cava. If she wanted people to fawn over her generosity, she would have donated the $1 million while she was still alive. However, because she included it in her will, there was a different motivation behind her actions.

Creating a story

Interestingly, the reason for acts like Cava’s has been linked to people wanting to leave behind their own autobiography. A study found that participants who were asked about leaving things to a charity started to examine themselves and their lives. The decision to give away money was like documented proof of who they were and what motivated them as a person. It left behind a story that other people would interpret, whether they knew the person or not, and see them for who they were.

Important connections

This has been backed up by another study which asked people why they’d put donations to charities in their wills. The results found that throughout their lives, these people had developed strong connections to the causes they were giving to. These causes became an essential part of who they were, so they wanted to honor that in their wills. Rather than merely showing them to be a good person by giving money to charity, their actions were displaying another side of who they were by who they’d donated to.

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