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A "teacher's pet" got engaged to her favourite schoolteacher - despite a 25 year age gap which sees them mistaken for grandmother and granddaughter. Monica Ketchum, 31, decided to search for her favourite teacher from school on Facebook 16 years after she left school to see how she was doing. When Michelle Foster, 56 - who taught Monica science in 2004 - got a message on Facebook from her former student, she was shocked. But the pair bonded over lunch and quickly became close friends. Michelle had been in a relationship with a woman in the past, and Monica had just come out as gay too. Their supportive friendship became more intense until it became clear there was a romantic connection - despite their unusual connection and 25 year age gap. Monica proposed in September 2022 and then Michelle returned the favour by popping the question back the following month. The couple say they are mistaken for mother and daughter "several times every day" and one stranger even mistook Michelle as Monica's grandmother, but they shrug it off - and say now they "don't even notice" the age gap. And even though they are targeted by trolls, who claim Michelle 'groomed' Monica, they say it couldn't be further from the truth. Monica, a forklift driver and content creator, from Big Rapids, Michigan, US, said: "Michelle was my seventh-grade teacher and she was my favourite - I was a teacher's pet. "We didn’t have any relationship besides her being a good teacher - until I reached out on Facebook 16 years later. "I've always been attracted to older people, so the gap wasn't an issue for me, but Michelle worried about it at first. "People always ask if she's my mum - I even recently designed a t-shirt saying 'no, she's not my mum'. "I try to let it go but it does hurt - age doesn’t matter to us, so why does it matter to other people?" Michelle said: "I was always willing to be supportive of former students, I was very happy reconnect. "I've always been a huge caregiver and one day she said 'let me take care of you' - I can't tell you how good that felt. "I was worried about the age gap and I was worried about how we first met, but I had to let it all go. "It became clear I had to make a choice for myself, and when I did, it was the weight of the world lifted. "Once I let go, it didn’t matter what anyone thought. Since I let go of that, we just flowered. "I realised other people can think what they think and I just have to do what I need to do to be happy. "I now just think how lucky am I to have such a wonderful beautiful soul to spend the rest of my days with." Michelle had been Monica's seventh grade teacher. Monica, then 13, had been "the goody goody student" and Michelle became her favourite teacher. While their relationship remained professional back then, Michelle left such a mark that Monica decided to find her on Facebook 17 years later, in April 2020. Monica had just gone through a tough family situation - she had been raised strongly Christian and had become estranged from her family when she came out as gay. She had recalled Michelle's supportive classroom being a "safe place" for her when she was younger and got in touch. Michelle had also been struggling when Monica reached out and they supported each other, speaking online. In August 2021, they finally met up for the first time. Monica said: "We sat and had lunch for five hours - it was great to catch up. "We grew close and became great friends - we could talk about anything. "We were both in really dark places and finding someone you can relate to and be vulnerable with felt safe." They ended their previous relationships to be together in May 2022, with Michelle and her wife filing for a divorce. Ever since then, the couple - who both have children from previous marriages - have been living together. Monica said despite the age gap, they have a lot in common, having bonded over music, camping, outdoor activities and hunting down locally-brewed beer. Monica said: "In the beginning, the age gap was the biggest issue for Michelle - I didn’t really have concerns. "I was always attracted to older people - I’m attracted to an old soul, so age has never really been a thing for me. "Michelle and I were always close, and we found commonality, so I didn’t even see an age gap." The couple got engaged late last year, after they organised separate proposals for one another. They are now planning their wedding, due to take place in June 2023. But the ride isn't always smooth - and due to their large age gap, Monica explained they are often mistaken for mother and daughter. She said: "People ask 'is that your mum' or even 'is that your grandma' all the time. "We learned to laugh or brush it off, but if you see me kissing her, why would you ask if she's my mum?" She added: "Another question I get asked is whether I loved her when I was 13 - obviously not! "At the time, we didn’t have any relationship besides her being a good teacher." Despite people misunderstanding their relationship, the couple put themselves out on social media. They explained they want to "be open in the community which needs a voice" - both due to being LGBT and because of their age gap. Monica said: "We want to be where others come to find hope and light and safety or need a friend. "We want to encompass everybody in a loving way and promote that love is love." Monica added: "We get a lot of harassment for our age gap, and we don't understand it. "Age doesn’t matter to us, so why does it matter to other people? "If I allow myself to sit there and think about it, I’ll go insane - I try to let it go but it does hurt. "Love is love and we can love whoever we want."
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