Hugs were plenteous at Thomson High School during the fourth annual Honors Breakfast last Wednesday.
Twenty-one students honored 20 educators at the event, which is held in the school's media center. Seniors who have maintained a cumulative GPA of 90 or better on the rigorous college preparatory or dual seal track were invited to the breakfast and asked to select one person in the school system who was influential in their development.
"I was really surprised," said band director Emme Himes, who was recognized by Caitlin Burnside. "These kids have 12 years of teachers, so they have so many to choose from. When you get picked as 'the one,' I think it's an honor."
Assistant Principal Lynn Cato, who organizes the event each year, said the students write a thank-you letter to the support person they selected. Ms. Cato said the adults receive an invitation to the breakfast, and they don't know who selected them until they open the letters.
Even though she isn't in the classroom teaching, this is the second year Ms. Cato received a letter herself. She was honored by Kierra Brown.
"I always thought Kierra had the most beautiful smile," Ms. Cato said. "In her letter, she wrote that she looks for my smile every day in the hallway. I couldn't believe what I was reading, because that's what I always thought about her. When you get notes like that, it inspires you to be a better person."
Kierra said it's the other way around -- Ms. Cato inspires Kierra to be better.
"She impacted my life all through high school," Kierra said. "She is motivated and she gets here early and leaves late. The school wouldn't be organized without her. Ms. Cato is a hard worker, and I want to be a hard worker, too."
Many teachers arrive early and open their letters before anyone gets there. Ms. Cato said she watches them wipe away tears as they read.
"I was so surprised to even receive an invitation," said Barbara Smith, who teaches K-4 at Dearing Elementary. Ms. Smith was honored by Aaron Washington. "They usually don't even remember my name by the time they're in high school, that's why this is such an honor. And to be chosen by the valedictorian, no less. You can't get any better than that."
A new aspect this year -- students pinned a flower on the teacher they honored. The corsages and boutonnieres were made by teacher Stacey Amerson from flowers donated by Georgia State Wholesale Florist.
Board of Education member Dexter Lovins, school system administrators Barry O'Neill and Mychelle Rhodes, and principals Rudy Falana, Claude Powell, and Laura Hughes also attended the event.
Educators and students who were honored:
Trevor Roberson (assistant principal, Thomson-McDuffie Junior High) by Shantanique Bailey
Maureen Adams (anatomy teacher, Thomson High School) by Kandy Reece and Shanteria Lowe
Mike Smallwood (assistant principal, THS) by Drake Smallwood
Robin Dudley (healthcare science teacher, THS) by Sara Swan and Blair Usry
Jessica Ruark (chemistry teacher, THS) by Cortney Bowling
Carol Farr (teacher, Maxwell Elementary School) by Sarah Kellogg
Vanessa Hill (math teacher, THS) by Jasmine Green
Jill Crutfield (former teacher, MES) by Haley Tam
Jason Osborn (teacher and coach, THS) by Heather Shivers
Ann Pereda (chemistry and physics teacher, THS) by Hannah Pereda
LaTasha Johnson (assistant principal, Thomson Middle School) by Malita Jones
Kelly Bingnear (receptionist and drama coordinator, TMS) by Leah Powers
Barbara Smith (teacher, Dearing Elementary School) by Aaron Washington
Kim Tam (teacher, MES) by Matt Stevenson
Emme Hines (band director, THS) by Caitlin Burnside
Susan Hitt (English teacher, THS) by Cody Adkins and Caitlin Burnside
Christy Donovan (government teacher, THS) by Caitlin Burnside
Rick Dubose (agriscience teacher, THS) by Amber Overton
Christa Arrington (teacher, DES) by Jessica Hawkins
Lynn Cato (assistant principal, THS) by Kierra Brown.