How Ballard County honored the memory of a beloved teacher

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The staff and students at Ballard County Elementary School this year had to figure out how to honor a beloved kindergarten teacher, Mrs. O’Shea Haymes, who died last summer. One way they chose to honor her was through a t-shirt sale, which will help fund a scholarship in her name. Photo submitted by Angie Woods
The staff and students at Ballard County Elementary School this year had to figure out how to honor a beloved kindergarten teacher, Mrs. O’Shea Haymes, who died last summer. One way they chose to honor her was through a t-shirt sale, which will help fund a scholarship in her name.
Photo submitted by Angie Woods

By Angie Woods
angie.woods@ballard.kyschools.us

Every teacher who can grace their students with a passion for teaching, has a heart for kids and possesses the ability to instill a love for learning in their students is special.

Sometimes, however, one truly special teacher will stand out and leave her mark not only in the hearts of her students, but also on her fellow teachers and even in her community. For Ballard County, our special teacher was Mrs. O’Shea Haymes, lovingly known to all of us as Miss O’Shea.

Our district suddenly lost Miss O’Shea this past summer, leaving a void in the hearts of everyone who knew her. She had a smile that brightened her classroom and touched even the most challenging students.

“Miss O’Shea had the uncanny ability to see potential in each child that was lucky enough to be in her class,” said Stephanie Joles, a fellow teacher. “She believed every child could and would learn, but they may blossom at different times. She was able to make even the most reluctant learner gain a zest for knowledge.”

Other teachers remember how she was always there for them, offering encouraging words, writing them cards, sharing creative ideas and working as a team on special projects for the kids after school. She loved doing crafts with her kids and making special gifts with them during the holidays so they would have something to take home to their parents. She went all out to plan special field trips and events – such as reading nights at school – and asked local community leaders to come in and read to the kids.

One of our current teachers was actually her student teacher at one time. Michele

Chandler recalls how Miss O’Shea would cook for every kindergartner when they would cover a new letter, so Miss O’Shea turned some of those duties over to her.

Staff and students at Ballard County Elementary School used social media to share their thoughts and memories about Mrs. O’Shea Haymes, a longtime teacher who died suddenly last summer.
Staff and students at Ballard County Elementary School used social media to share their thoughts and memories about Mrs. O’Shea Haymes, a longtime teacher who died suddenly last summer.

“My job was to prepare things for the kids,” Chandler said. “I didn’t know how to cook really, much less use a blender. I made purple cows, (but) I didn’t screw the bottom of the blender shut. So when I picked it up, all of the purple cow went all over the floor. She never blinked an eye. She just smiled and went and bought more supplies. “

All of the teachers who taught with her at Ballard County Elementary School feel as if they learned from the best.

“Miss O’Shea was as valuable to her peers as she was to her students,” Principal Vicki Gough said “Miss O’Shea believed in me, in her fellow teachers and her students. She leaves a legacy in our school and community of love, support and inspiration.”

With Miss O’Shea’s passing, our school faced the challenge of keeping her memory alive. What could we do to keep her spirit in our hearts and in our hallways? We couldn’t imagine not having her with us. The administration gradually started coming up with some ideas of how we could celebrate her memory and keep her presence in our school.

One of the first ways we honored Miss O’Shea’s memory was by letting teachers know that we would be celebrating her throughout the upcoming school year. Teachers knew when they reported in for the professional development sessions at the beginning of the school year that they would be invited to share a special story about how she had either touched their lives or the lives of one of her students. Gough asked teachers to share their stories and invited teachers to treat their students as Miss O’Shea would – with love and understanding.

We also brainstormed ideas about what Miss O’Shea loved or was known for. We wanted there to be something the teachers and kids could connect with to symbolize Miss O’Shea. This was pretty easy, because anyone who knew her knew she LOVED frogs. So we have used a frog on anything we’ve done in her honor.

During the opening professional development sessions, administrators introduced the “Frog-Tastic” Binder. Teachers were challenged to write other teachers a special note when they felt the teacher was exemplifying a Miss O’Shea characteristic – going the extra mile, doing something special for someone – and leave the binder in his or her mailbox. The “Frog-Tastic” Binder has been circulating all year.

In keeping with the frog theme, her fellow teachers and retired teacher friends felt a great way to keep her memory alive in the hearts of the students would be to place a new piece of playground equipment – a frog – on the playground. Since she was formerly a kindergarten teacher, it made sense to place it on the primary side. Funds to make the playground equipment possible were made available through donations from her friends. The equipment will be dedicated on her birthday this summer.

Miss O’Shea loved all of her children, but she truly had a heart for those who struggled or perhaps didn’t have as much support from home as other students. So another way her friends chose to honor her life and continue to give back to the community she loved so much was through a memorial scholarship. They called it “Ms. O’Shea’s Can Do Kids,” because she always said that all kids are can-do kids.

The memorial scholarship is made possible through donations, fundraising nights at her favorite local restaurants and T-shirt sales. The scholarship will be available for students graduating from Ballard Memorial High School with a 2.8 GPA or higher. We feel confident that Miss O’Shea would be proud of one of her former kindergartners being able to go to college a little easier due to this scholarship fund. It also ensures that her memory will live on from year to year and continue to give back to our community.

 Angie Woods is assistant principal at Ballard County Elementary School.

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