Ms. Waddell was still making a difference in student’s lives…even after she passed. Anybody who attended school knows the impact a single teacher can have on their students, especially if that teacher is as passionate to help their kids as the one in this story. Get your tissue ready, this story will bring on the waterworks all while warming your heart. Tammy Waddell was a beloved 58-year-old teacher, who’s last wish inspired people from all around the world
Just the thought of death can be a scary and heartbreaking subject, but some people choose to create a silver lining with their selfless deeds during their last moments on earth. Thus was the case with Mrs. Waddell, who chose to help disadvantaged kids all the way until the end. Mrs. Waddell was a teacher in Forsyth, Georgia, who for over 30 years dedicated her life to her students. On June 9th, 2018, she lost her battle with cancer, and to no surprise to anyone that knew her, she decided to make one last request that showed just how much she loved her students.
“She lived life by loving others and she was never worried about attention, she was just focused on the love,” said then 35-year-old son, Kevin Waddell, of his mother.
Knowing the importance of Mrs. Waddell’s wish, hundreds of co-workers, peers, and family, lined up at her funeral with backpacks full of school supplies. Mrs. Waddell’s obituary asked for the backpacks and school supplies to be donated to Project Connect, a program that helps kids get school bags, and supplies to students that need them. Her obituary also described the kind of person and teacher she was, it partially reads:
“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.”
In 2003, Mrs. Waddell won Forsyth’s Elementary Teacher of the Year Award, and it’s easy to see why. Mrs. Waddell was a teacher with every fiber of her being and inspired countless lives along the way. She was even the inspiration to why her son, Kevin, followed in his mother’s footsteps to become a teacher.
“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,” said Kevin.
The backpacks were lined up at every pew in the church, along with a massive pile of them at the alter. Usually full of flowers, the altar in the church instead, had a huge pile of backpacks that were to be donated in honor of Mrs. Waddell. The pictures went viral, instantly touching thousands of people’s hearts.
If you thought that was the end of Mrs. Waddell’s journey of giving to her students, guess again… In 2015, a foundation to help students in need was started in Mrs. Waddell’s name. One thing about love, it tends to live on, which is exactly how Mrs. Waddell is still giving to the students she loved so much even after her untimely death. In July 2015, the Tammy Waddell Memorial Scholarship was created in her honor.
“Tammy Waddell was an educator that devoted her life to teaching, nurturing and loving the students of Forsyth County. During her years as an educator, Mrs. Waddell understood that education was rooted in building meaningful relationships with students. She had a true gift to inspire, educate and touch the lives of the children that passed through her classroom. Mrs. Waddell’s legacy was recognized worldwide as news companies across the world picked up the story of her final living request: to recognize her life by providing bookbags full of school supplies for students in need instead of flowers at her funeral,” reads part of the application for the scholarship.
This is truly one of the most inspiring stories I have ever been assigned. As a writer, you come across stories that touch your heart, and this one seriously had me crying like a baby. There can never be enough dedicated and loving teachers in the world, and Mrs. Waddell should be an inspiration to all.