Most teachers leave their personal lives far away from the classroom. This keeps things professional, but also causes a personal distance from the students, who often don’t know anything about their instructor’s real life.
But Nathan Neidigk, a pre-calculus teacher at Albuquerque’s Volcano Vista High School, isn’t afraid to open up to his class about his family—and the unfortunate circumstances he’s faced recently, including the death of his first wife in 2015.
He’s also up for talking about his fun interests—his class all knows he’s a fan of the Legend of Zelda games—but his frankness about the darker side of his life, while still remaining positive, has always been admired by his students.
“He’s a very open teacher and he shares all of this with his class,” one parent told Inside Edition.
“They really respect him for that.”
So the students were troubled early in the school year when they discovered their teacher was facing another crisis.
Two years after losing his wife, Neidigk was close to losing another family member: his 2-year-old son. He recently fell sick, and when Neidigk took him to the hospital, he received a devastating diagnosis.
“After they had run blood work, [the doctors] said that Michael had leukemia,” Neidigk told KRQE.
Neidigk’s son has been receiving treatment, but its been a stressful time for his family. The medical bills and hospital stays were taking a toll. Neidigk recently had to miss a week of teaching.
But when he returned, his class had a surprise.
A group of seniors left Neidigk stunned when they announced they had something for him—a consolation gift to help him and his family through their hard time.
“We’re aware of your situation and we really want to help you out, so we all got together and we got you this,” one student told him as he handed him a wrapped package.
Neidigk didn’t know what to expect—but as he unwrapped the gift, he was stunned as he realized what it was.
It was a Nintendo Switch!
A group of seniors had pooled their money together to surprise their teacher with the new gaming system, plus a few games and accessories to go with it. It was no small gesture—the system alone costs $300, and is in high demand. The students each chipped in $20 to make it happen—but were more than happy to.
“I love his positive attitude he comes to school with,” student Nathan Gonzales told KRQE.
“I felt like we just wanted to spread that back to him and give it back to him in a way that we could.”
“When we found out, we figured hey, let’s just do it,” added another student, Chad Sherwood. “It could be something really special and something he’d like.”
Indeed, it was the perfect gift. It was something he could play with his wife and two young children—and maybe play the new Zelda game himself, too. Plus, one of the main features of the Switch is that it can be played as a mobile tablet, which makes it convenient for the hospital trips ahead.
The thoughtfulness wasn’t lost on their teacher, who was deeply touched by their gift.
“It was an incredibly generous gesture,” Neidigk told Inside Edition. “The meaning behind it was bigger than the fact that it was an awesome gift.”
“They found the opportunity to do something nice and allow my family to have fun moments in time of intense stress.”
He added to KRQE that the gift felt like “a warm hug from everybody.”
“It choked me up. One of the punch lines was everything is going to be okay and everything is okay. And it is.”