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Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen

Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen

Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen.
Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen. Courtesy of Cornerstone Learning Community/Jason Flom

A teacher from Jamaica just celebrated becoming a U.S. citizen and her students showed up to make sure she knew how proud they are!
Back in 2007 while working as a teacher in Kingston, Jamaica, Annmarie Small, decided to pack up her life, which included her 5-year-old son, and pursue a better life in the United States.

She ended up settling in Tallahassee, Florida, where she knew no one, and was hired as a teacher at Cornerstone Learning Community, a small private school that teaches pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Luckily for Annmarie, the compassionate members of the Cornerstone Learning Community, including students, parents and some of the staff, were there to greet her when she arrived at the airport.

Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen.
Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen. Courtesy of Cornerstone Learning Community/Jason Flom

Now, after 13 years of teaching at Cornerstone, Small was cheered on by current and former students last week as she took the oath to become a U.S. citizen.

“I use the term ‘bag of emotions’ because that’s exactly what it was,” Small, now 42, said of her reaction. “When everything was quiet after the ceremony and I went home, I cried, and it was tears of joy,” GMA reported.

“I’m so happy the process is over now because it’s been a long process,” she said. “And there were tears of joy because I’ve had the support of Cornerstone since day one.”

“It’s so special to me because it’s not just one particular group,” Small added. “Every year, I’ve had students and teachers and parents rooting for me.”

Her students absolutely adore Annmarie too – she’s so well loved that her current 4th grade class, as well as the school’s 5th, 6th, 7th, and even 8th grade students joined her at the ceremony held at the Leon County Federal Courthouse.

Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen.
Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen. Courtesy of Cornerstone Learning Community/Jason Flom

In fact, so many students showed up to show support, that they ran out of space in the courtroom and the middle schoolers had to wait outside – Incredible!

As the courthouse emptied after the ceremony, students cheered as they waved American flags for Annmarie and the 70 other people who became citizens alongside her that day.

“There was a feeling that this is what we should be doing as a nation, welcoming our new citizens, that we are a nation of immigrants and this process is essential to our national identity, and being able to share that with students and to humanize it was amazing,” said Jason Flom, Cornerstone’s director.

Flom was part of the committee that initially hired Small as a teacher at Cornerstone.

Flom described how he knew immediately that Small would be excellent for Cornerstone teacher role and said her becoming a U.S. citizen called for a huge celebration.

Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen.
Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen. Courtesy of Cornerstone Learning Community/Jason Flom

“She’s been a fixture of our school for a long time, and she’s been a teacher leader, and coordinates our after school program and coordinates our summer camp program,” he said to GMA.

“She really works hard as a professional and as a human to connect with kids,” he added.

Annmarie’s son, who’s now 18, also attended the school, and remembers feeling immediately welcomed by the people there despite coming from a completely different country and culture.

“I’m forever grateful,” she said. “Even working with a master’s degree in Jamaica I couldn’t make ends meet, but here I’m better able to support my family back home and myself and my son.”

After celebrating initially at the courthouse, Annmarie was then surprised with an “all American party” at Cornerstone, which was complete with the staples of America including, apple pie, ice cream and an all-American playlist.

Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen.
Hardworking teacher celebrates with her students after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen. Courtesy of Cornerstone Learning Community

“The road may be long and rugged and tough, but just don’t give up — keep going,” Annmarie said.

Annmarie hopes her story inspires others to chase their dreams, and to never give up on what you want in life.


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