“A teacher affects an eternity; He can never tell where his influence stops.” A remarkable math teacher from Georgia, Tammy Waddell, took Henry Adams’ well-known saying to a new height. Tammy was able to continue touching the lives of her students, even after her untimely death.
Awarded as the County Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year, Tammy dedicated more than 30 years of her life as a teacher in Forsyth, Georgia. Aside from teaching the students with the knowledge and skills they need to know, Tammy was also well-known for her passion for helping her children.
Most particularly, Tammy cannot help but feel for her students, whom despite facing economic and financial problems, are still trying to study hard and aim for their dreams.
Unfortunately, the meritorious teacher lost her battle against cancer. On June 9, Tammy passed away at the age of 58.
People might think that since Tammy’s life has already ended, so do will be her advocacy for her students who are in need and are socially disadvantaged. However, Tammy proved that, for a teacher with a kind and committed heart, not even death would be able to stop her from doing a difference in the lives of her students.
Apparently, before Tammy passed away, she made one specific request for her funeral arrangement. The selfless teacher indicated that rather than flowers, she hoped that her funeral attendees would bring backpacks filled with school supplies instead.
In lieu of flowers, Tammy’s obituary wished for donations to be made to Project Connect, a local program that gives backpacks and school supplies to nearby students.
Understanding the importance of Tammy’s last wish, hundreds of former co-teachers, family, and friends lined up together at Tammy’s funeral services last June 13, each and every one of them held the backpacks with complete school supplies.
“She always felt a bond to students in need, whether they need supplies or a hug,” Dr. Brad Johnson, Tammy’s cousin, and fellow teacher shared about her thoughtful last wish for her former students. “She thought they needed backpacks more than she needed flowers.”
Dr. Johnson’s tweet about Tammy’s selfless wish that truly shows how concern she was about her students, became viral in an instant. People all over the internet were touched and amazed at how much Tammy’s students take space of her heart.
“She was very inspirational in me achieving all that I have… She was as quick to give a hug as she was quick to give supplies to students who needed it.” Dr, Brad Johnson shared in an interview how Tammy touched his life.
“Part of what I loved about my mom was the passion she had as a teacher. It’s one of the inspirations that led me to the profession,” Tammy’s son, Kevin Waddell, also happens to be a teacher in Forsyth County Schools, shared in an interview.
“She lived life by loving others and she was never worried about attention … she was just focused on the love,” Kevin added. “The message she would try and deliver at this point is to donate to your local schools. It doesn’t have to be here specifically.”
The selfless and respectable teacher was loved and appreciated by the people around her, as evident to the words scribed in her obituary:
“She had a passion for literacy and believed that every child deserved an opportunity to learn. She was a National Board Certified Teacher and in 2003 was recognized as the Forsyth County Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year. She left a legacy in the hallways of Sawnee Elementary & Primary Schools, Cumming Elementary School, and Haw Creek Elementary School. Those around her recognized Tammy by her generosity, selflessness and unconditional love. Though her achievements and accolades are numerous, none are greater than the many lives that she changed over the course of her three decades in education.”
It is no wonder why Tammy’s story became viral and even reached the coast of Great Britain, after all, who wouldn’t be amazed at the great amount of love the teacher had for her students. Certainly, Tammy is happy that people all over the world are willing to send school supplies for children and students in need, just as she wanted to.
Tammy is not only survived by her son, Kevin, and cousin, Brad, but as well as her husband of 30 years, Mike, her other children, and four grandchildren. Tammy’s lovely family and the lives of the students she was able to help will remain as a testament to Tammy’s beautiful heart that once graced our world.