TULSA, Okla. — "That's our purpose, to touch tomorrow."
For more than 50 years, Ms. Woody has been touching tomorrow.
"Those children who came to me in 1967 and 1968 are now senior citizens, probably grandmas and grandpas, and looking forward to retirement," Ms. Woody said.
But one student stood out from the others. A shy kindergarten student named James Wagner was part of her classroom at Burbank Elementary School 33 years ago.
"He was a reader," Ms. Woody said. "He loved to read. He always had a book."
When it came time to put on a patriotic program, Wagner was the one she turned to because of his ability to read.
"She asked if I would read the preamble [of the constitution] at the introduction to this program," Wagner said. "I was nervous about doing that and she just encouraged me to do it."
Wagner knocked it out of the park.
"He did great," Ms. Woody said. "He walked up there like a young gentleman, he took that microphone and he read, and everybody clapped because you don't expect that from a five to six year old.
It was Wagner's defining moment — the first time a teacher saw something in him he didn't see in himself. The year was 1987.
"Really, Miss Woody was the first person to do that in my life and I remember it well," he said.
"Each child has a gift," Ms. Woody said. "You look for that gift and then you take that gift and you help them travel on up."
Fast forward to 2020, just a few weeks ago, when Wagner learned his pre-K daughter had be assigned to a Ms. Woody. At first, he thought it was impossible.
"When we saw her for the first time and heard her voice, I knew that was the same Miss Woody that was my teacher 33 years ago," he said.
So, Wagner prepared for Sloan's first virtual class waiting in the back to surprise someone who changed his life so long ago.
"I kind of jumped in at the end and said I don't know if anyone knows this, but Miss Woody was my kindergarten teacher," Wagner said.
"He showed this picture of me and him in kindergarten," Ms. Woody said. "And I said James Wagner, you stole my thunder! And everybody kind of chuckled."
Wagner said he feels blessed that his daughter will be guided by a teacher who's devoted her entire life to helping children learn.
"It's just such a special thing that she, that my daughter has the opportunity to learn from her and experience that gift in the same way," he said.
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