By Cory L. Higgs
Patrick County teachers will have a green Christmas, after an anonymous donor contributed approximately $400,000 to give $2,000 to each teacher in the county.
The bonus, in recognition of the critical work teachers do in our community, was in honor of Hazel Young Clark, a second-grade teacher for more than three decades at Stuart Elementary School. She also was a committed volunteer at the local hospital, nursing home and her church.
All totaled, the anonymous donor gave the school division $510,000, with $100,000 earmarked to build a new baseball/softball fieldhouse at Patrick County High School. It will be named the Martin F. “Fill” Clark Fieldhouse. “Fill” Clark, a veteran of World War II, served as Commonwealth’s Attorney for twenty-eight years, and also dedicated his time and talents to several community and civic organizations.
The library at Patrick County High School will receive the remaining $10,000, according to a release. Acting Superintendent Dr. J. David Martin, and newly appointed superintendent Dean Gilbert, visited the schools in the county Thursday to spread holiday cheer.
The gift was for teachers only; however, the principals at each school seemed elated and satisfied to escort Martin around the school and see their colleagues faces light up with excitement and happiness. Kenzie Woods, principal at Hardin Reynolds Memorial School, commented that she was having a blast watching each person reaction and seeing them light up. The same rang true for principals of other schools, as they escorted Martin door to door to spread the good news.
“Is this for real,” many recipients asked Martin. Others were clearly elated, jumping for joy and praising the donor’s generosity.
Many teachers were overcome with emotion, their eyes brimmed with tears. Others said the gift could not have come at better time, as they expressed gratitude to the donor and to God.
“It is often said that teachers will never be repaid for their professional service. What a wonderful tribute to be recognized by an anonymous donor in memory of a remarkable teacher,” Martin said.
A few stories also pulled at Martin’s heartstrings.
For instance, a teacher at Hardin Reynolds Memorial School gleefully told him that she was going to use the money to fly to Belgium and see her son. That trip would not have been possible without the unexpected gift.
A teacher at Stuart Elementary School said she was at a local store the day before, buying snacks for her classes’ Christmas party when her card was declined. She said she had to put items back one at a time, prioritizing her selections on classroom necessities. She said she worked her way through her shopping cart and was ‘lucky’ to have enough change to pay for the soda she had opened while shopping. Standing in front of her classroom door, she was astonished and overwhelmed with emotions after receiving the bonus, and giving Martin one of the hundreds of hugs he received that day.
Several teachers said they would put the money towards their children’s college tuition or student debt.
After a quick jot through Patrick Springs Primary Martin said, “these teachers are bringing tears to my eyes. The shock and tears are genuine reactions.”
As Martin delivered the bonuses to teachers in various classrooms, he said practically the same thing: “Merry Christmas! Please find enclosed a check in the amount of $2,000 for your commitment and the vital role you play in the Patrick County community, but more importantly, in the lives of the students, you serve on a daily basis.”
Each time felt like the first to observers who watched as joy flooded each teacher’s face.
A crowd followed Martin through the halls, and teachers could be seen leaving the classroom and shedding tears of joy in the hallways or celebrating with their colleagues.
It was an emotional day in Patrick County schools, as one Stuart Elementary School teacher said.
“It’s not just about the money, it’s the thought,” she said, noting that unselfish giving is the true meaning of the holiday spirit.
Although the donor asks to remain anonymous, teachers may send ‘thank you’ notes to the School Board Office. The notes will be delivered to the donor.