Promise kept: Teacher sleeps on roof to reward students

Published Feb 8, 2013 at 11:06 am (Updated Feb 8, 2013 at 11:06 am)

Matthew Todaro is a man of his word.

Todaro, a history teacher at Canon-McMillan High School, spent the night of Feb. 6 on the roof of the school, keeping a promise he made to his students during a recent fundraiser.

In December, when the high school launched its annual school-wide Santa Fund drive – which provides Christmas presents for underprivileged children throughout the district – Todaro upped the ante: If his classes raised the most money for the fundraiser, he would camp out for a night on the roof and bring his students breakfast.

“I try to stress integrity and responsibility in my classroom, and if I expect them to meet those standards, then I need to live up to them,” said Todaro, who is also an Army chaplain with the 402nd Quartermaster Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve.

“I’ve noticed, too, that if you ask students to raise money for a good cause, they will. But if you give them a tangible motivator – if they knew I’d physically be suffering and feel miserable – it would give them more motivation to do it,” he joked.

The Santa Fund raised a total of $5,700, and Todaro’s five classes were responsible for raising $2,000, more than one-third of that amount. So on Feb. 6, Todaro made good on his promise and climbed onto the roof at 2 p.m., armed with the gear necessary to get through a cold winter’s night in Canonsburg. He brought a tent, an Army-issued sleeping bag, warm clothing and a lantern that provided some heat. The temperature was about 28 degrees when Todaro began his campout, and dipped into the teens overnight. Early on, he ran laps to stay warm, and his wife and daughters stopped by to drop off pizza.

Todaro said some of his students didn’t believe he would last the night, but he was on the roof to greet them when they arrived at school the next morning.

“I’m extremely exhausted. I’m dragging. Every five or 10 minutes, an exhaust fan or some other noise would wake me up. I want to go to bed,” said Todaro, who usually goes to bed early and rises by 4:30 a.m. “It was cold, but as long as I stayed in the sleeping bag, it was all right.”

But Todaro was happy to lose a good night’s sleep in order to hold up his end of the bargain.

“The important thing is that we raised money for an important cause,” he said. “My role in this is just a very small part of a much greater purpose.”

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