Ruben Caceres

It’s teacher appreciation week, and Ellen Degeneres chose an Oak Cliff teacher to reward with $25,000.

Ruben Caceres, who teaches special education at Hector P. Garcia Middle School, used his stimulus payment to make masks for his students.

He told The Monitor that his grandmother taught him to sew when he was younger. His mom loaned him the money to buy a sewing machine and supplies to make the masks, and he paid her back, he told the McAllen newspaper.

I work with kids that are severely disabled and medically fragile. All my kids are nonverbal, for some we have to do little medical procedures every day with them. Most of them are wheelchair-bound. Sometimes they’re the last ones people think about, and I wanted to do something for them because I can’t see them physically now. I wanted to make them masks so if their parents wanted to take them out on a stroll in the neighborhood or to a park or anywhere, they would have some protection.

Caceres started out making masks for all of his 23 students and their parents. Now he’s working on making them for all Dallas ISD special-education students and their families.