Surprise Squad honors Holyoke teacher helping students in and out of the classroom

The Hyundai Dealers Surprise Squad is back to honor another educator who is going above and beyond in and out of the classroom.
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 4:29 PM EDT
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HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The Hyundai Dealers Surprise Squad is back to honor another educator who is going above and beyond in and out of the classroom. Eric Wood is a history teacher at Mater Dolorosa School in Holyoke, the PTO president, and a soccer coach, but recently, he took on a new role and stepped in as a father figure for one of his students.

Sean Hall is a seventh grader at Mater Dolorosa School in Holyoke. His father has been away over the past several months for government training, which has left his mom, Jacqueline, with her hands full and taking care of their three kids, but she isn’t doing it entirely alone. It’s people like Wood, Sean’s history teacher, who have stepped in to help.

“There was a school dance during this time and I actually didn’t know how to tie a tie. That’s something, unfortunately, my husband usually takes care of and so Mr. Wood was like ‘Absolutely, bring the tie to class. I’ll teach everybody how to tie a tie,’” Jacqueline Hall explained.

However, it goes beyond just a tie lesson in Sean’s class.

“Everywhere we go, the spaghetti supper, any fundraiser, Mr. Wood is there,” Hall added.

That’s why the Halls nominated Wood for the Hyundai Dealers Surprise Squad. It was a moment he certainly wasn’t expecting.

“On behalf of the western Mass. Hyundai dealers, we want to give you $500 that you can spend any way that you like,” said Gary Rome, president of Gary Rome Hyundai.

“We have another $500 that we are donating to the school on your behalf,” added Carla Cosenzi, president of Country Hyundai.

The Mater Dolorosa gym was filled with students and teachers who were excited to get the chance to honor Wood, but what he didn’t know was who exactly was behind the whole surprise until he spotted the Halls.

“That hits a little bit because it goes beyond the classroom,” Wood explained.

“We just really wanted to say thank you so much. We are very grateful,” Hall said.

“Sean did come up to me earlier in school and he was very nervous and he just wanted to thank me on how his grades were doing and I know he’s nervous in general, but now, it makes a little bit more sense,” Wood added.

However, one person was missing from the crowd. Sean’s dad sent in a special video surprise to make sure he was able to express his gratitude for all that Wood has done for his family.

“Everything you have done has been tremendously outstanding. I am so grateful. My family’s grateful. You deserve this. Thank you,” said Sean’s dad.

Wood got emotional seeing and hearing how much he means to the entire school community, but especially the Halls.

“Sean just kind of hit me. My parents split up when they were younger and I didn’t have my dad for a long time, so when he came to me just looking for that guidance and his dad told me that he was leaving and Sean didn’t really know that he was leaving, just asked me to fill that void and I just try to fill it the best I can for him in particular,” Wood noted.

Sean felt equally as lucky to have Wood in his life, which made keeping the surprise a secret even more difficult.

“He has helped me ever since my dad went to Georgia going to do training and he has been really helpful to me for a while,” Sean Hall said.

Wood has only been a teacher at Mater Dolorosa for two years, but he has been a parent at the school for over 15 years and has spent more than two decades as a coach in the community as well. He told us his favorite part of all those roles is being able to see the kids grow.

“We have these kids from three years old until 14, so we impact their lives. Parents, teachers, and coaches impact the youth more than anyone I can think of,” Wood explained.

One lucky kid Wood has been impacting his entire life is his son, Jefferson, who also got to be part of the big surprise.

“He’s my dad, so he’s been my teacher for 14 years. He’s a really good history teacher, I think. I might be a little biased,” Jefferson Wood said.

The Western Mass. Hyundai Dealers were excited to get a chance to honor someone so deserving.

“Eric Wood is, I think, embodies everything that every school and community really needs. Not only is he here to support the school and all the students, but when anyone needs something outside, he steps up,” Cosenzi added.

“He was a role model, a father figure,” Rome said. “What an amazing human being. It’s awesome.”

“What an amazing gentleman he is...very happy for him and impressed with all of the good deeds that he’s done,” said Traci D’Agostino, sales consultant at Balise Hyundai.

Some city leaders also joined in the surprise to honor one of the many outstanding educators in the Holyoke community.

“To all of the teachers that put in the extra work for our school system, for our kids, we can’t thank them enough,” said Holyoke City Councilor Todd McGee.

“That reaction stems from all the hard work that this teacher has shown to these children and so for me, it’s that excitement. It builds hope,” added Holyoke City Councilor Juan Anderson-Burgos.

That hope is something Wood sees in each and every one of his students.

“I love Sean and all of these guys, but I just love the whole school body. It is really great kids here and great kids make you a great teacher. It’s not the other way around,” Wood said.