NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Following the death of a well-liked teacher, family to friends were saddened. Unexpectedly, a class project is helping them cope with their loss.
Fifth graders at Raguet Elementary in Nacogdoches are busy illustrating a book titled, 'Banard, The Backyard Rabbit.'
"Start working and continue your work," said teacher Becky Wiggins as she got her students lined out on the morning's work.
The students may not be aware of it, but their work is carrying on a teacher's legacy. Jill Waller taught at Raguet Elementary. In March, she passed away following a lengthy illness.
"A lot of these kids had Ms. Waller as a teacher, and they were very excited to do something for her," Wiggins explained.
The children are illustrating the story written by Jill's mother-in-law, Opal Waller from DeKalb, Texas. "He came to explore and play on the very first day of May," Waller said as she read from the story. She was inspired by watching a rabbit who appeared each morning in her backyard.
The story had no pictures. Opal's son Scott, Jill's husband, printed the story for the kids to illustrate as a way to complete his mom's book. "I knew my mom would get a big thrill out of that," Waller said.
Scott knows the ways of teachers. His mom is a retired first grade teacher. His wife of 32 years, was also a first grade teacher. " Whenever we would go visit mom and dad the discussion always came around to teaching," Scott said.
As the project nears completion both mother and son are beginning to realize this classroom project has taken on a bigger significance. A story and pictures are helping them cope with a deep and personal loss.
"It makes you feel closer to her, you know, to do the things you know she liked," Opal said.
"Absolutely. Knowing that this was what Jill was passionate about and seeing the students working on this just makes me feel good inside," Scott said.
In February, Raguet Elementary will name its Gallery of Magnificent Minds in honor of its creator, Jill Waller. It too will provide comfort, but bring no less significance to the classroom project.