HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — A Palos Verdes Peninsula High School teacher had the opportunity to meet Judge Judy Sheindlin—and sit in the front row of her courtroom—thanks to an essay she wrote for a Facebook competition.
“This is so surreal. I feel like I’m in a dream world right now,” said Betsy Okamoto of Harbor City.
The instructor dazzled Judge Judy with an essay titled, “How Judge Judy Changed My Life.”
“I didn’t write it with the intent of winning. I wrote it with the intent of saying thank you,” she said.
The essay explained how watching Judge Judy transformed Okamoto’s teaching style from one of friend to disciplinarian.
“(I would say to my students), ‘You were late, you’re benched. ‘You didn’t turn your homework in on time? Sorry, I’m not going to take it.’ ‘You missed this assignment, you get a zero.’ I started holding people accountable and it really made a difference in my teaching,” said Okamoto.
Sheindlin said Okamoto’s essay stood out among thousands submitted.
“She took something that she learned from watching our program which is, teenagers have enough friends, if you’re a parent or a teacher, you’re supposed to set standards,” she said.
Sheindlin added, “To see somebody in person that you’ve touched…and that they continue to touch hundreds of other people…is a joy.”
Okamoto also got to experience something that doesn’t happen often in the courtroom—a hug from the judge herself. All because she brought tough love to the classroom.
“God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason,” said Sheindlin.
Okamoto said, “Sometimes we say, ‘Hands up, mouth shut!’”