Sixth-grade teacher Michelle Apperson passed down a simple message to her students.
"My favorite teachers growing up were the ones who challenged me to go out of my comfort level a little bit, strive for the stars, and work hard," the veteran California educator wrote on her school's bio page.
But her own hard work wasn't enough to keep her employed.
Despite just being named Sacramento's "Teacher of the Year," Apperson was laid off as part of a massive budget cut.
"It hurts on a personal level because I really love what I do," Apperson, who taught all subjects, told KXTV-News 10. "But professionally and politically or economically, I get why it happens."
Her pink slip comes just days after President Barack Obama prodded Washington lawmakers to help cash-strapped states with education funding.
The Sacramento City Unified School District has suffered approximately $143 million in budget cuts in recent years. School spokesperson Gabe Ross told News 10 that who gets laid off is mandated by state law and is based on seniority, not performance.
"It's an awful situation," Ross said. "It's another sign of how education's funding really needs an overhaul."
According to her bio, Apperson's goal was to teach her students "how to solve problems with peers, other adults, and the world around them."
Now they know firsthand how difficult that can sometimes be.