Anderson Cooper surprises Newark teacher with visit, spa trip

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NEWARK — CNN anchor and talk show host Anderson Cooper surprised a city kindergarten teacher today, sending her to a New York City spa for the afternoon and teaching the class in her absence.

Cooper chose the teacher, Princess Williams, 27, saying educators rarely receive the credit they deserve for their hard work. Ninety percent of Williams’ young students at Brick Avon Academy, a K-8 school, are achieving at grade level.

“Rewarding a teacher as special as Princess with half a day off and a treat like this is well deserved,” said Cooper, who brought Williams to tears when he arrived at her classroom with a bouquet of orange fall flowers.

A video crew for Cooper’s new talk show taped the surprise visit for airing in a future episode. In Williams’ absence, Cooper read books such as “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney and “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” by Mo Willems.

The students clapped and shrieked with excitement about the surprise when Cooper first arrived.

Williams’ mother Samantha Lucien, a paraprofessional at the school, joined her for the spa day. Lucien said her daughter is a model teacher and deserving of the special honor, especially because she endured significant challenges growing up.

“Education was essential in our home. She was surrounded by books,” Lucien said. “But we went through some family tragedies, too — homelessness, poverty, me being in a battered-woman situation.”

Brick Avon Executive Director Dominique Lee said Williams is an exceptional teacher who knows how to boost her students to the next level academically. Many of Williams’ students had not been exposed to numbers or letters before stepping foot in her classroom.

“Even still, she calls her kids scholars,” Lee said.

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