A Georgia teacher who lost her battle with cancer this month continued to impact the lives of children in need even after her death – all because of one final, compassion-filled wish. Tammy Waddell, 58, passed away on June 9. For 30 years, she worked as a paraprofessional and elementary teacher for Forsyth County Schools.
A gifted educator, Waddell harbored an innate passion for literacy and was a firm believer that every child deserved an opportunity to learn and progress in life. And just a few weeks before she lost her battle with cancer, Waddell made an extraordinary final request, which solidified her legacy as a selfless and devoted champion of young people.
Instead of having mourners spend money on flowers and decorative features for her funeral, she asked that they spend that money on school supplies for needy children. And that’s exactly what they did. The end result was stunning: a church sanctuary filled with backpacks that were stuffed with educational supplies.
“She thought they needed backpacks more than she needed flowers,” Waddell’s cousin, Dr. Johnson, told FOX 5.
— Dr. Brad Johnson (@DrBradJohnson) June 16, 2018
Johnson shared another beautiful photo from the ceremony, detailing that about 100 teachers served as honorary pallbearers, carrying the backpacks to their schools to complete Waddell’s dying wish.
Honorary pallbearers… Teachers who had taught with her through the years… pic.twitter.com/CyB2pBbBNy
— Dr. Brad Johnson (@DrBradJohnson) June 19, 2018
“It was heartwarming,” Johnson said, adding that he had been sent backpacks from all across the world since his tweet went viral. Supplies have even been sent over from the United Kingdom’s TES resources.
Former students and parents left wonderful notes of condolence in an online guestbook.
“The best teacher I’ve ever had,” one student wrote.
“Ms. Waddell was my daughter’s (Katelyn) 5th grade teacher during the 2016-2017 school year,” a parent posted. “We are so sorry to hear of her battle with cancer and her ultimate passing. She will truly be missed. We were so happy to hear of her desire for backpacks. What a great way to help out the community while remaining a ‘teacher until the end’.”
“My condolences and prayers to the family and I just wanted to let them know that Tammy did make a difference in the lives of my children, Connor and Keelan, during their years at Sawnee Elementary. May you find comfort and peace in the days ahead,” another parent added.
“In loving memory of a wonderful person. We will love you and miss you always. You were the best 5th grade teacher.”
According to Atlanta Journal Constitution, the backpacks will be distributed through Project Connect, a school district initiative set up to provide donated school supplies to students who are in need. “Tammy was a servant leader that loved children,” Forsyth schools spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said in a statement. “The generous backpack/supplies donations in her memory is a touching tribute.”
Waddell is survived by her husband of more than 40 years, two sons, and several grandchildren. One of her son’s works as a teacher, along with two of her daughters-in-law.
Further donations can be made in Waddell’s memory to Project Connect through Forsyth County Schools at the main office, 1120 Dahlonega Hwy. in Cumming, or by calling the school district at 770-887-2461.
Pray for the family as they grieve the loss of this wonderful lady.