Surprise Squad honors Springfield teacher who has students dancing for joy

This month, the Hyundai dealers are celebrating an educator who has all of her students dancing for joy.
Updated: Jul. 26, 2023 at 4:30 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - It may be summer break, but the Hyundai Dealers Surprise Squad is still in session. This month, the Hyundai dealers are celebrating an educator who has all of her students dancing for joy.

“The thing that I love about her is that she’s the best teacher ever,” said Alijah, a third grader at Gerena Community School

“She is the best dance teacher I ever had,” add Jace, a second grader at Gerena Community School.

It’s not only the students praising Laura Netherwood, the dance teacher at Gerena Community School in Springfield. Her coworkers rave about her too.

“When she is in that space and the students are dancing…you just got goosebumps because to see what she creates and how she executed her vision with her students and provided this opportunity for them at a public school, it’s just amazing,” said Gerena Community School Principal Cynthia Escribano.

“She’s dedicated. You can see the passion that she has to work with the students,” added special education teacher Jessica Perez.

All that praise only means one thing: it’s time for the Hyundai Dealers Surprise Squad to step in.

“Kiddos, we have a big surprise today. I heard that you have a very special dance teacher…can you guys wiggle? When she comes out today, we’re all gonna yell ‘Surprise’ so can you guys do it with me? 1,2,3, surprise,” said Brian Houser, general manager of Balise Hyundai.

“She’s going to be very surprised. She’s upstairs teaching math to summer school kids, so I don’t think she has any idea that this is happening,” added Michelle Bilodeau, instructional coach for reading at Gerena Community School.

“Thank you for everything that you do. You are so loved and you make such a big impact on the students and so we are glad that we could honor you today. So on behalf of the Hyundai dealers, we are going to donate $500 to your school supplies,” said Gary Rome, president of Gary Rome Hyundai.

“We are also going to donate $500 to you to spend on something that you like…so go and have some fun,” said Mike Paquette, general sales manager at Country Hyundai.

“You can buy some dancing shoes,” Houser added.

“That’s amazing. Thank you…I love you guys and this is all because of you and I’m here because of you, so thank you so much,” Netherwood said.

Netherwood told us she has been dancing since she was two years old. Despite her passion from a young age, she told us she only saw dancing as a hobby.

“I never thought I would have a career in teaching dance at the schools. I walked into Gerena and I came in for a classroom teaching job. They saw my dance background and I asked, ‘So do you think you can start a program’…In my head, I had no idea, but of course, I said yes,” Netherwood explained.

Escribano told us she is glad she did.

“Seeing all of our students here with Laura today and celebrating her fills my heart with joy. Laura is one of the educators here at Gerena that has done so much for our community,” Escribano noted.

Netherwood told us her inspiration for teaching comes from the life lessons taught through the sport of dance.

“To be able to go up in front of a crowd, over a couple of shows, that ends up being over a 1,000 people…to be able to step up in front of them…to do that one thing you didn’t think you could do…if you can do that, what can’t you do?” Netherwood explained.

The Hyundai Dealers Surprise Squad learned of Netherwood’s impact on the school through Bilodeau, who told us Netherwood is responsible for creating their famous end of the year dance show.

“Everyone talks about it all year long. We can’t wait for it to happen. She also has a dance team that she works with after school and the great thing about Laura is that all her former students come back to be in that show and still work with her,” Bilodeau explained.

One of those students has close ties to Gerena.

“I’ve had the privilege to have my own daughter being one of her students and she helps her build her confidence and now, she’s even competing on…that’s something I’m just so grateful for her and her patience and it’s an honor to have her in a school showing the kids to be able to showcase their talents,” Perez noted.

“I try to make it as big and special as possible, so it’s a memory they keep with them,” Netherwood added.

With all the admiration in the world, it is the students who will always remember the time they spent smiling, laughing, and dancing with Netherwood.

“[Reporter] If you could tell her one thing, what would it be? I would tell her that you’re the best teacher and I love you 100 percent,” said one student.