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'I was frozen': Video of parent catching teacher off guard with praise goes viral

The parent expressed gratitude for his daughter's third-grade teacher at Saddleback Elementary School in Maricopa.

MARICOPA, Ariz. — With a cellphone in hand recording, in front of staff members, parents, and students, a Maricopa father stopped a school teacher to praise her teaching methods.

The video of that encounter has since been seen by more than two million people on Facebook.

What started off with the curt voice of a man asking a question ended with hugs between the teacher, father, and student.

“I just got the spontaneous idea that I need to give her some of the feedback that Keri had been giving us about her teacher,” the father, Leonard Johnson, said.

Johnson went to pick up his eight-year-old daughter from Saddleback Elementary School in Maricopa when he saw his daughters’ third-grade teacher and began recording.

“I hope you don’t mind me recording this,” Johnson is heard saying as he approached Miss Maureen Dersé. “Are you Miss Dersé?” to which the teacher replied “yeah” in a timid voice.

Johnson then asked her if he was his daughter’s teacher in a demanding tone of voice. Dersé looked confused, turned to another staff member, and told her “I think I need an administrator.”

Dersé appeared to be uncomfortable while Johnson got closer and said, “I just wanted to tell you, you are one wonderful teacher, and Keri says that you are the best!”

The teacher, relieved, laughs, sticks her tongue out, and hugs Johnson.

“I was frozen, I didn’t know what to do,” Dersé told 12News Tuesday. “I thought, did I miss something that wasn’t brought to my attention?”

Johnson’s daughter, Keri, joined Dersé classroom around fall break after the family moved to Arizona from out-of-state.

The eight-year-old quickly fell in love with how Dersé taught, and how she treated her and other classmates. And that was what she had told her dad numerous times.

“She is very sweet and most of the time we have a really fun time,” Keri said. “I didn’t know he was going to do that. I was confused at first, but then I was relieved that nothing bad happened.”

Keri’s mother said she was “horrified” after her husband showed her the video, adding she felt embarrassed for Miss Dersé. But understood why he did it.

“I understand the value of a teacher, the importance, the impact that they have on a student’s life,” Naisha Johnson said. “So, I’m happy. Miss Dersé is really good.”

Dersé has been a teacher for 11 years. It’s her retirement job after spending more than 20 years at Southwest Airlines.

Although she loves teaching, she had no idea about the love her students had for her.

“I was so surprised because I just do my job every day, I love it. That’s why I do it,” she said.

Miss Dersé admits she’s a joker herself and loved Johnson’s prank, but adds the recognition was not necessary.

Johnson disagrees and encourages other parents to highlight their kids’ teachers too.

“They’re dealing with our kids, so make sure we’re showing our appreciation,” Johnson said.

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