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Pay It Forward: Muscatine teacher takes in foster children needing home

Melissa Ramsey is a kindergarten teacher at Jefferson Elementary in Muscatine. She and her husband took in four foster children right before Christmas time last year

MUSCATINE, Iowa — Teachers are special in the lives of children, but one local teacher is going the extra mile.

Melissa Ramsey is a kindergarten teacher at Jefferson Elementary in the Muscatine School District. She will be starting her ninth year of teaching this fall 2021.

"I just really like kids," Ramsey said.

"She is just the most wonderful, loving, giving, caring, loving person," Edna Valenzuela, colleague and Pay It Forward nominator said.

Melissa and her husband Craig are the parents of eight children. Four are their biological children and the other four are foster children. 

"We all decided that we would take this journey of fostering," Ramsey said.

The Ramsey family took in the foster children before Christmas time in 2020. They are siblings who were taken away from their parents and needed a home. The Ramsey family welcomed them with open arms.

"We really never thought we were going to do this, but when I knew these kids, I knew I wanted to help them," Ramsey said.

The biological children are ages 17, 15, 6 and 4. The foster children are 11, 9, 7 and 2.

"I think that's all of them," Ramsey said. "We just show them love and we show them that they've always got a place."

The family has a buddy system set up for the children to help with organization. 

"To do something like this... that's above and beyond," teacher Sarah Manjoine said. 

 "Edna, thank you for nominating Melissa for the Pay It Forward Award," Ascentra Credit Union Sarah-Beth Floyd said. "At Ascentra Credit Union, we believe in listening, caring and doing what's right, and Melissa's acts of selflessness really exemplify those principles. That's why I'm proud to present you with 300 dollars that you may pay it forward to Melissa. Congratulations!" 

"Thank you," Valenzuela said.

"On behalf of WQAD and Asecentra Credit Union, they gave me this money to pay it forward to you," Valenzuela said to Ramsey. "I decided to nominate you because of your loving, caring heart. You just always have such a positive attitude about everything and I love you for it, so here you go, congratulations."

"Awe, thank you," Ramsey said.

"They're just one big family," teacher Nicole Nebergall said.

"Melissa loved them as students and now she loves them as a part of her family," principal Kandy Steel said. 

Ramsey was asked if there are any struggles.

"Struggles are mostly, what to cook for dinner," Ramsey said. "That's a lot of kids to feed." 

No matter the challenge, Ramsey makes a way for all children, even if it's beyond school doors.

"Ever since then I knew, she's dedicated to what she does," colleague Laura Martinez said.

"It's one way to make a difference," Ramsey said. "It's very eye-opening."

"I just can't even imagine doing that," Valenzuela said.

The foster children are not up for adoption at this time, but the Ramsey's are hoping they can reunite with their parents soon.

If you know someone you'd like to nominate for the Pay It Forward Award, click here.