When students in one of Beth Newton's classes at Maxwell Elementary were finishing up their first grade year, probably none of them thought about their high school graduation.
But Mrs. Newton did.
Valencia Hunt (left) leads other THS graduates on the field during Friday's practice.
Jason B. Smith
Her class 12 years ago was assigned a special project. They were to gather materials for an individualized time capsule. The capsule would be given to their parents and opened on the day of their high school graduation.
Some students have moved and left the school system, but several from that class -- one of Mrs. Newton's early first grade classes -- walked the field at the Brickyard Saturday night.
One of those students, Kristian Johnson, couldn't hold off until graduation.
"I opened it the other day," she said during graduation practice on Friday morning. "I was supposed to open it on graduation day, but I opened it earlier."
Kristian's time capsule consisted of pictures of her family and classmates, drawings of her hand and foot and a list of her likes and dislikes. The contents of the box that her parents had held on to for 12 years were an eye-opening experience for Kristian.
"I enjoyed looking through it. I almost started crying," she said. "Just looking at stuff that I drew when I was little, my mama said she wished that she would have kept adding to it throughout the years."
Time had darkened the memory of the capsules, and Mrs. Newton -- now the assistant principal at Thomson Elementary -- had to be reminded of them by a former student's mother.
Marie Stephens of Stephens' Jewlery told Mrs. Newton she was excited about opening her son's time capsule because he graduated from Silver Bluff High School this year.
"I really had forgotten that I had done that. So that really meant a lot to me that a parent came up and remembered that," Mrs. Newton said.
Some of her students shared in their former teacher's memory of the time capsules, forgetting about them as the years passed.
"I really forgot about it. I believe I still have it," Thomson High graduate Valencia Hunt said. "I can remember first grade, but it seems like it all happened so fast."
After being reminded of her class project, Mrs. Newton had a chance to reflect on the reasons she asked her students to participate.
"I just thought that that would make it even more special because when you graduate that's kind of like that first big event," she said. "You are moving on to the next stage of your life. It would kind of make you reflect all the way back to when you started school."
Some of her former students appreciated the gesture all these years later. And now they fully understand the meaning behind looking back in the midst of a milestone.
"I think she did that so that we could get a look at what our life was like back then and see what all we have accomplished throughout the years," Kristian said. "It was very special that she did that."
Kristian's was the type of reaction Mrs. Newton had hoped for all those years ago, and she continues to hope for it as her students, one by one, remember and anticipate catching up with their old selves.
Kristian Johnson sits with other graduates during practice.
Jason B. Smith
"I hope they've all kept it and are going to have a good time opening it and thinking back on first grade," Mrs. Newton said. "I hope that it is going to show them how important a good education is and that teachers do care about them and want them to do good and want them to be successful.
"Of course they can't see the big picture (in first grade), but hopefully now that they can look back and see that each grade played an important part in who they are and that they can be successful."