HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - As the school year comes to a close, many are looking back at all the hard work put in by our local educators.
One parent in particular saw a major change in her grandson after a McMahon Elementary School teacher went above and beyond to help him out.
"Very warm, very caring, dedicated, loyal," Holyoke resident Carmen Robles tells us.
Carmen is describing Mrs. Lisa O'Neil, a special education teacher at McMahon Elementary School in Holyoke, who's made a huge impact on Carmen's grandson Johnny Rodriguez.
"Mrs. O'Neil is a great teacher. Most of the teachers don't put the effort she does. She makes sure she does as much as she can to help out her students," says Rodriguez.
"She really does care, and I know that tomorrow Johnny is going to be educated and productive, because of Mrs. O'Neil, because of McMahon school," says Robles.
As the school year comes to a close, Carmen and Johnny want to show their appreciation for Mrs. O'Neil with the help of the Big Y Surprise Squad.
To start, MGM Springfield is offering a fine dining experience for two at Chandler's Steakhouse.
After hearing Mrs. O'Neil is a big fan of the beach and Disney, the Surprise Squad gave her a nice getaway to the beach.
In addition, the Surprise Squad is going to give her class a tour of Western Mass News in the Fall.
Mrs. O'Neil has taught special education for thirty-five years, the past thirty-three in Holyoke.
"When they make progress, it's awesome. Finding a way to help them make progress is really awesome," said Mrs. O'Neil.
Principal Noreen Ewick tells Western Mass News that Mrs. O'Neil is very dedicated to her students.
"She does what it takes to help them succeed acedemically, behaviorally, and social and emotionally. She's a great asset to our community," says Ewick.
12-year-old Johnny has autism, and Mrs. O'Neil has gone above and beyond to make sure he's succeeding.
"Patience.To be very patient. Even if you're struggling or feel stressed out, you have to be patient. It makes me feel pretty good. It makes me feel like I've learned something," stated Rodriguez.
As school lets out for the Summer, Carmen has one last message.
"Mrs. O'Neil you are amazing! You are amazing. I think every parent in Holyoke should point out a teacher and acknolwedge them, recognize them for their hard work and dedication," added Robles.