The impact that educators have on the world is often overlooked. Yet, it is the encouragement and wisdom of passionate teachers that help to make lasting impressions on students. Teachers who are truly devoted to their profession and seek to empower their pupils through learning are treasures not to be taken for granted in our society. Georgia educator Tammy Waddell was a shining example of this type of commitment. She showed it through decades of dedicated service to her students—even until the very end of her life.
Waddell was an elementary teacher in Forsyth County Schools for 30 years when she died after a long battle with cancer. As an advocate for education, “she had a passion for literacy and believed that every child deserved an opportunity to learn.” This commitment inspired not only her students but also a legacy of educators in her family—including her son and cousin, who both credit her with inspiring them to pursue careers in education.
“Part of what I loved about my mom was the passion she had as a teacher,” her son, Kevin Waddell, expressed. “It’s one of the inspirations that led me to the profession. She lived life by loving others and she was never worried about attention … she was just focused on the love.”
Even at the end of her life, Waddell was still concerned for her students. In her final weeks, the dedicated teacher made one final request on behalf of her students. Rather than having mourners bring flowers in her honor, she asked that they bring backpacks filled with school supplies to her funeral as donations for children in need. Her touching request resulted in hundreds of backpack contributions, and news of the moving act has continued to inspire many since her death. A tweet from her cousin relaying the news received thousands of replies and retweets on Twitter from those who were touched by Waddell’s selfless request.
“This was just the kind of teacher she was,” remarked Waddell’s cousin Brad Johnson, “and this is a reflection of her heart. She was a teacher first, all the way.”
Educator Tammy Waddell requested that mourners bring backpacks filled with school supplies to her funeral instead of flowers.