Tammy Waddell from Alpharetta, Georgia, always put her students first. She was an incredibly devoted teacher in Forsyth and was passionate in everything that she did.
In particular, she tried to motivate students whose parents weren’t doing well financially because she thought that everyone deserved the chance to learn.
Unfortunately, Tammy was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago. She left us due to the terrible disease on June 9th.
The devoted teacher expressed one final wish before she passed away, and the community was more than willing to make that wish come true.
Tammy didn’t want people to bring flowers to her funeral. Instead, she wanted attendees to use that money that they’d need for the flowers, and spend it on backpacks and other educational supplies instead.
“In lieu of flowers, please bring backpacks filled with school supplies to honor Tammy’s passion for children in need or make a donation in memory of Tammy Waddell.”
She knew that there some of the students are going through hard times and are in desperate need of school supplies, so she wanted to share one final, heartwarming and inspirational lesson to everyone.
At the woman’s funeral, filled backpacks were seen everywhere instead of flowers.
Tammy’s cousin Brad Johnson decided to share a picture on his Twitter account showing all the backpacks, and the word about heartwarming gesture quickly spread on the internet.
“My cousin’s final request at her funeral was Backpacks full of supplies for needy students instead of flowers. A teacher to the end,” he wrote.
Hundreds of friends, family members, and fellow teachers attended Tammy’s funeral and made sure that her last wish could be fulfilled.
About a hundred teachers and colleagues were appointed the honorary pallbearers, and each took a full backpack with them.
“She inspired in her teaching, and her final lesson has literally inspired the world,” cousin Brad said.
All of the backpacks are distributed to Project Connect, which is a collaboration between the Cumming Elementary, Otwell Middle and Forsyth Central High schools. It’s a project with a four-year history and an annual event, and the goal is to deliver school supplies to hundreds of students in need.
“It’s really about making that connection. They feel the teachers care. They feel valued. They know they took time out of their day to meet them where they are,” social worker Amy Gamez said about the project.
“What I tell my students who want to be teachers, if you want to be an effective teacher, you’ve got to go beyond the four walls of the classroom,” mentorship employee Greg Walkup added. “If you don’t know the kids coming in the door each day … My job is to teach the standards, but sometimes what they need is just a hug that day, or encouragement or some wisdom.”
Tammy was a paraprofessional and teacher in a number of elementary schools in Forsyth County. Everyone who knew Tammy will tell you that she was an absolutely wonderful person who was adored by her students.
“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,” her obituary reads.
Such an amazing gesture and a powerful lesson. Tammy and her heart of gold will never be forgotten.
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— Dr. Brad Johnson (@DrBradJohnson) June 19, 2018