When a beloved teacher in Georgia passed away, people brought school supplies rather than flowers to her funeral. The teacher, Tammy Waddell, requested that people bring supplies for children in need as her last wish. She was indeed a “teacher to the end,” as her cousin described.

Waddell had been an elementary school teacher in Forsyth County, Georgia, for 30 years. She’d taught at several schools: Sawnee Elementary & Primary Schools, Cumming Elementary School, and Haw Creek Elementary School.  In 2003, she was honored as the county elementary school teacher of the year. After a long battle with colon cancer, she passed away on June 9, 2018, at the age of 58.

Her son, Kevin Waddell, wasn’t surprised at all that his mother requested school supplies in lieu of flowers at the funeral. Her obituary suggested that to honor Tammy’s commitment to children in need, mourners should donate to Project Connect. The organization provides backpacks and supplies for disadvantaged students.

Mourners Brought School Supplies Instead of Flowers to a Teacher’s Funeral

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After learning about her dying wish, people were more than happy to comply. Tammy’s cousin and fellow educator, Brad Johnson, took pictures of dozens of backpacks lining the church pews at her funeral.

People donated around 130 backpacks filled to the brim with school supplies. Paul Holbrook, a spokesperson for the funeral home, estimates the supplies would last at least half a year. They included items like notebooks, pencils, sharpeners, markers, binders, and more.

About a hundred of Waddell’s colleagues showed up at the funeral to collect the backpacks for students in need. Brad said they served as “honorary pallbearers” since they carried the backpacks out and delivered them to their schools. He said the experience was “heartwarming” in an interview with CNN.

He also told Good Morning America that Tammy greatly inspired his career path. Brad added that the beloved teacher gave as many hugs as she did school supplies. It’s clear she had a lot of love in her heart for others and wanted to share it whenever possible.

People all over the world have been touched by the devoted teachers’ dying wish. When the story went viral on social media, a non-profit called Tes Resources in the UK wanted to honor her memory. They ended up donating thousands of school supplies to students enrolled in Forsyth County schools.

Tammy Treated Her Students Like Family

Everyone described her as a loving, caring person who put her students first. Her son Kevin said that Tammy’s passion for teaching even inspired him to pursue the career as well. He added that she did everything out of love for others and didn’t want any attention or praise.

She referred to her students as her “kids,” so they always felt cared for and eager to learn. While she’s not there in person any longer, her legacy will live on. She was selfless until the end and wanted to ensure students had the necessary resources to learn. Tammy did everything in her power to ensure their needs were met, even before her own at times.

Her obituary reads: “She had a passion for literacy and believed that every child deserved an opportunity to learn. Those around her recognized Tammy by her generosity, selflessness and unconditional love. Though her achievements and accolades are numerous, none are greater than the many lives that she changed over the course of her three decades in education.”


Her son said she would encourage the public to donate funds or supplies to their local school district. You never know how your small act of kindness could change a student’s life.

Waddell is also survived by a husband of 41 years, another son, BJ Waddell, and four grandchildren.

She will be dearly missed but never forgotten.

Other Amazing Teachers Who Change Lives Every Day

We previously wrote about a kind teacher who ensured a student didn’t miss his high school graduation. Daverius Peters, a senior at Hahnville High School in Boutte, Louisiana, couldn’t wait to walk across the stage and receive his hard-earned diploma. However, a school representative said he wasn’t in the proper dress code when he arrived at the ceremony.

Daverius had on the mandatory cap and gown, white dress shirt, tie, and black dress pants. He’d only bent the rules slightly on his shoes, wearing black leather sneakers instead of dark dress shoes. But, since he didn’t have any dress shoes, he thought the sneakers would suffice. Unfortunately, the school representative disagreed.

Just as he began to lose hope and thought he would miss his graduation, a teacher came to his rescue. Paraeducator John Butler recognized Daverius and walked over to see if he could help.

When he learned about Daverius’ shoe predicament, the teacher quickly offered his dress shoes without a second thought. He wasn’t about to let the young man miss this important moment in his life, so it was a “no-brainer” to let him borrow the shoes.

While the shoes were a couple of sizes too big, Daverius was just thankful he could graduate! He slid across the stage in Butler’s size 11 loafers, proudly accepting his diploma. Butler sat in the crowd wearing only socks, ignoring everyone’s bewildered stares. He was happy he could help a student in need, and Daverius’ family made sure to thank him after the ceremony.

There are truly some amazing teachers in this world, and they deserve much more credit for their sacrifices.

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Final Thoughts on the Teacher Who Preferred School Supplies Over Flowers at Her Funeral

Tammy Waddell wasn’t just any teacher – she went above and beyond for her students, ensuring they had every opportunity to learn. Everything she did was for others because she wanted them to succeed. That’s why she asked for backpacks full of school supplies instead of flowers at her funeral. She cared so much about her students that she put them first, even in death. The selfless women left a legacy that the world will never forget.

Other teachers like John Butler aid students in other ways. He made sure Daverius Peters could graduate by letting him borrow his shoes for the ceremony. It just shows that no act of kindness is ever too small if it can change someone’s life for the better.