Teacher thought she’d get a ticket, but instead got a generous donation from state trooper for her flexible seating classroom
PRINCETON — In the midst of the back-to-school rush, a Facebook post shared by a Princeton Elementary School teacher has shed a positive light on just how meaningful small actions made by police officers can be to so many.
After being pulled over for speeding by Illinois State Police Trooper Matthew Dalton on July 23, Lisa May, a first-grade and second-grade special education teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, wrote about her traffic stop experience on social media.
Her story instantly went viral. As of Tuesday morning, the Facebook post had received 113,000 reactions, 7,600 comments and 28,000 shares.
In the post, May thanked the trooper for pulling her over on her way to Earlville, where she and her son had been headed to pick up a loveseat May had found on the Facebook Marketplace for her classroom.
May recently recounted what happened that day during an interview in her classroom.
She said they had just about reached Earlville, when she looked into her rearview mirror and saw flashing red and blue lights.
“As I saw the lights, I started to brake and told my son I thought I was being pulled over,” she said.
“I knew when I looked down I had been speeding, because at that point I was going 60 and had already been slowing down.”
The police car stopped behind her, and ISP Trooper Matthew Dalton got out of his squad car. He asked May for her driver’s license and registration and also asked where she was headed.
“You’re nervous, because you’ve just been pulled over. I said I was on my way to Earlville to buy a couch for my classroom,” May said.
She added Dalton seemed surprised she was going all the way to Earlville for a couch, so she explained it was going to be used for her flexible seating classroom.
Dalton went on to say he thought flexible seating was a neat idea and had wished he had been in a classroom like that when he was in school.
“He said he would let me off with a warning if everything checked out. So he went back to run my license, and my son started taking pictures of me,” May said with a laugh.
“I’m hollering at him to stop taking pictures, because I know he’s going to blackmail me later.”
When the officer returned, he questioned May a little bit more about what she taught and then asked about the cost of the couch.
When she told him, he reached into his wallet and handed her money to put toward the cost.
May’s first response was a joke when she said, “I can’t accept a bribe from a police officer.”
“We both laughed and I kept saying, ‘I can’t accept it.’ He was very insistent and so I said, ‘On behalf of my classroom and the kids who were going to benefit from it, I would accept this and pay it forward,’” she said.
May said she became emotional about what had happened and she couldn’t stop thinking about it.
“It was on my mind and I was so touched,” she said. “I was in shock. I was in the wrong. I got pulled over and I was benefiting from it. It was overwhelming.”
So that’s when she decided to share her story with her friends on Facebook. Right away, she received feedback from friends wanting to share her post. Before she knew it, the post was reaching people from all over the country, and even some as far away as Canada.
“Never in a million years did I expect it to take off like this. It’s pretty crazy,” she said.
In a time when social media is filled with negative cop stories, May said it made her feel good so many wanted to share her positive story.
A Peoria news station picked up the story and they invited Dalton to May’s classroom where the two got better acquainted and conducted an interview together. Dalton got to try out the “Dalton Couch,” which May has named after the trooper. He also autographed her warning ticket and the two shared lunch at Spoons, where the restaurant owner picked up the tab.
May said since the day of her traffic stop, she has been trying to pay it forward in little ways wherever she can. She also said the “Dalton Couch” has been a hit with her students, so far.