We saw a lot of success in the Santa Clarita Valley. More and more local businesses started pairing up with I Love Teachers to reward teachers for all their hard work. Our Facebook page was getting some hits, people in my community were familiar with our mission, but I started to think bigger.

Around Mother’s day, I decided to promote our Facebook page so teachers all across the nation would see it. I budgeted $1,000 for Facebook advertising for the month and thought I’d just sit back and see what would happen.

Within minutes, my phone started getting alerts—people and teachers from all over the country were liking the ad and the page. I started getting all sorts of messages asking for more information as well. My daughter looked at me in disbelief and said, “Dad, what’s up with your phone? Turn off your alerts!”

I went to my account and realized I had made a huge mistake. I didn’t budget $1000 for the month, I had budgeted $1000 per day for the whole month! Facebook was spending my ad money to make our page viral all over the country. Within minutes, our page had over 1000 new likes! I turned off the ad once I noticed my error, but that experience told me something. I Love Teachers wasn’t just something special for Santa Clarita – people from all over the country liked what we were doing and wanted to learn more. I learned that all the idea needed was a little push to really take off. But I knew I had to be careful regarding growth – the traction we got that day was more than I was prepared for!

A teacher from Arizona reached out to me after seeing the Facebook ad. She was calling representing Red for Ed, a group of 50,000 Arizona teachers. I had heard about them on the news – they went on strike and didn’t show up to work for four days in an attempt to get better wages.

I learned from her that while teachers all over the nation are suffering, in Arizona they have it especially bad. Arizona ranks dead last nationwide in elementary school teacher pay, with an annual average salary of just $42,474. That’s more than $13,000 less than the national average. The lack of funding for public school teachers in the state has caused a crisis-level teacher shortage, with more teachers leaving the profession than entering it every year. My heart broke for them…

The Arizona teacher also asked me a few questions about I Love Teachers and our mission. She was grateful for what we were doing and wanted to help spread the word about us. After our brief conversation, she promoted and forwarded our Facebook page to her friends and followers…

Yet again, my phone alerts started going crazy, and our page started getting a lot of likes from Arizona teachers. I kept in touch with the teacher who had called me and decided to fly to Arizona to meet her and the other teachers who were touched by our mission.

The day before my flight, the sandwich shop owner I had previously spoken to asked me to meet an associate of his – the Pita Pit franchise manager. We met the day I arrived in Arizona. I told him all about I Love Teachers and how it came about. He was in awe of the good I Love Teachers has already been able to accomplish. His fiancée had just bought a Pita Pit franchise just outside of Phoenix, and he wanted to help us get her store on board and as many others as he could as well. His fiancée, Jennifer, was once a teacher. She absolutely loved the work but had to leave the job because it didn’t pay the bills.

When I met Jennifer, we hit it off right away. She asked how I Love Teachers started, and she got the long version (the one you’re reading!). I showed her our site, and she asked if she could help. She loved our message and goal but had noticed many distracting errors on our site. She offered to correct those errors for us and did so within the day.