Guy Fieri may be the face of one of Food Network’s biggest shows, but he says he wouldn’t be where he is today without the help of his elementary school teacher.
When the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host was in 8th grade, his history teacher, Fran Fischer, helped him enter his pretzel pushcart in that year’s Humboldt County History Day. His parents were unable to take him to present his project, so Fieri says Fischer offered to drive him 45 minutes to the competition, where he ended up taking home the first place prize.
That small act of kindness forever changed Fieri’s outlook. “You look at a lot of teachers, and you know there’s gotta be something special about them, for what it takes, and what they do, and how hard they work, and how little they’re paid,” Fieri exclusively told PEOPLE. “And I’ve always had this desire to do something to recognize her.”
Fieri teamed up with the California Lottery as part of their “Thank A Teacher” campaign in order to give back to the teacher he says once “showed him the world.” He went back to his elementary school in Ferndale, California and surprised Fischer a with a cruise to anywhere in the world.
“I told her, ‘Listen, you helped show me the world, you helped show me how big and how many opportunities were out there,'” he said. “And I said, ‘I want to show you the world.’ And she started bawling!”
Fischer, who was a teacher for 32 years and is now retired, told PEOPLE, “I’m not usually a person who is speechless, but I had no idea what to say. It was just amazing.”
When asked what the chef was like as a teen, Fischer said he was always “incredibly respectful” and kind and has remained that way since.
Fieri says his gift for Fischer is just a small representation of the attention that all of our teachers and our educators deserve.
“I’m not saying everybody has to give a cruise, but I hope the video shows people that you can even write to your teacher five years after you graduated, or five years after you had class, or one year, or the day after you left their class, and say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for what you do,'” he says. “These teachers are unsung heroes that deserve so much.”