Tina Swann taught kindergartner Brea Boutwell to smile during adversity. During Boutwell’s senior year, Swann taught her about self-esteem. On Friday, Boutwell taught Swann to cry.
The high school art teacher picked up her letter from the stack that filled a table in the Thomson High School media center, then fought tears as she realized which honors student had selected Swann as her honors educator.
In all, 35 honors seniors selected someone who had inspired them. The honorees included retired teachers and current faculty, including teachers in their first year at THS. Other honorees included parents and a custodian.
THS special education teacher Stacey Amerson, who will coordinate graduation on May 18, organized the breakfast. She and Lynn Cato have helped to coordinate the breakfast for nine years. Cato, a former THS assistant principal and now principal at Norris Elementary School, visited the high school for the breakfast.
Amerson’s daughter, Lily, and a half-dozen school staffers helped to set up the honors letters and the table of food.
“It’s an opportunity to recognize someone who has been an inspiration to them, in school or out,” Amerson said.
Swann hugged Boutwell as they sat and examined the letter. During her senior year, Boutwell wrote, “you have taught me so much more than just art.
“Every day you came in, you would tell the class ‘I am me and I’m not changing for anybody.’ ”
Boutwell continued, “It made me realize that a person can be 10 times happier in life if they are happy with themselves.”
She added, “… I leave you with this letter to let you know that you mean a lot to me and you have taught me a lot. I appreciate everything that you have ever done for me.”
Boutwell told Swann, “You will forever be a hero in my life.”
Ansley Thrift chose her 11th-grade American literature teacher, Amy Proctor, as her honors educator. Thrift held Beta Club offices for two years while Proctor served as club adviser. “She’s my favorite teacher,” Thrift said. “She taught me I can do whatever I want. I can pursue my dreams. I can do whatever I want in life.”
“This group of senior is so special,” Proctor said.
Nekia McNair chose Kathy Neal, her 11th-grade physics teacher, for the honor. “She made me realize I want to be a teacher like her, not only caring if the student passes, but their emotional needs, too,” McNair said. McNair also was Neal’s teaching apprentice.
Ben McIntosh chose his mother, Lynda Anguilla, a teacher at Dearing Elementary School. “I can say I taught him every day of my life,” Anguilla said. “I haven’t read the letter yet. I’m too emotional.”
“She got me to where I am today,” McIntosh said.
“And sometimes I think he’s teaching me about life,” Anguilla said
Chad Austin chose his eighth-grade algebra teacher, Steve Smith, who had retired in 2008. “I was a handful,” Austin said. “But I listened to him. Now I’m in honors math.”
“I’m very honored after so many years,” Smith said.
Nellie Crenshaw, a THS custodian for nine years, said this was her first year to be selected as an honors educator. In fact, both Victoria Lewis and Carlesha Elam chose Crenshaw.
“She’s wonderful. She’s encouraging,” Lewis said.
“She always has advice,” Elam said.
Crenshaw said she was “very surprised” with the honors. “It lets me know I’m doing something right for these students,” she said.
Senior Javequia Martin chose biology and environmental science teacher Pam Hawkins as her honors educator. “Thank you for the patience, caring and understanding,” Martin wrote.
Alyssa Carter chose middle school art teacher Brenda Fariss as her honors educator. “She’s my favorite teacher,” Carter said. “I love Miss Fariss.”
Fariss hugged Carter again. “I knew who it was,” she said. “When I got the letter, I knew who it was.”