A local teacher has a pretty unique collection on display in her classroom! And she uses her collection to teach her students about tolerance and diversity.
Carmen Johnson-frees teaches 7th grade at Marshall Middle school in Janesville. And for a decade and a half, she's been building a collection that's pretty sweet.
Mrs. Johnson-frees makes sure she stays on top of her students. That's because she loves to teach, but she also has a soft spot and a sweet tooth for M&Ms.
“This is a shrine to the students who have been here before,” she says looking around.
Every where you look, there is M&M memorabilia...on her desk. on the walls, hanging from the ceiling. Several hundred different pieces all prominently on display
“Well, they think they are very colorful and when students go on to 8th grade, they'll come back and tell me that their new rooms seem a bit bare compared to mine,” said Johnson-Frees
The collection began nearly 15 years ago when a student gave her one as a gift.
“When we moved from the old Marshall to the new Marshall, I did not have one single M&M item,”
Over the years, students continued to donate to the m&m lady's collection, including NBC 15's Tim Elliott
“There is so much more than I remember,” said Elliot who was a student of hers in 1997.
“You were like you will probably be able to find yours and I said I'm not sure because there's so much more!” said Elliott.
But Tim eventually found his piece.
“Seek and you shall find!” said Johnson-Frees
“There it is!”
Fellow teachers like to give Johnson-Frees a hard time regarding her obsession.
“Well I've been teaching with Mrs. Johnson-frees for about 20 years now and I've watched this grow and grow and it's just, I don't know Tim, it's kinda wrong,” seventh grade teacher Jean Ashenfelter joked.
To Johnson-Frees, M&M's aren't just candy, it's an opportunity to teach these kids a message of equality.
“One color doesn't think it's superior to the other, one color doesn't discriminate against the other, all colors are the same, size, shape, and weight, all colors look different. If candy can be prejudice free, why can't we?” she says reciting a poem.
The collection continues to grow with no end in sight.
“What I do upon my retirement, that's a good question...” said Johnson-Frees
Her favorite kind of M&Ms are peanut M&Ms.