Georgia teacher’s request for funeral: Backpacks with school supplies

After decades of service to her students, one Georgia teacher had one final lesson to impart.

Tammy Waddell died June 9 at Northside Hospital-Forsyth after a prolonged illness. At her funeral June 12, dozens of backpacks filled with school supplies lined the pews.

The donated supplies were Waddell's last request to honor her lifelong passion for helping children in need, according to her family.

Tammy Waddell (Credit: Family photo)

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“My cousin, a teacher, wanted backpacks with supplies brought to her funeral instead of flowers for needy students,” Brad Johnson said on Twitter. “Serving others to the end.”

Johnson shared photos of the backpacks and of Waddell’s fellow teachers, who served as honorary pallbearers at the funeral.

Over her career, Waddell worked as a paraprofessional and a teacher at Sawnee Elementary, Cumming Elementary and Haw Creek Elementary in the Forsyth County school district. She was a national board-certified teacher and in 2003, she was recognized as the Forsyth County Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year.

Waddell had recently retired from the district, a spokeswoman for the district said.

Johnson’s initial tweet has been shared more than 2,500 times, garnering praise for Waddell and her legacy as an educator.

Former students who left condolences on an online guestbook described Waddell as a compassionate and inventive teacher who encouraged students to do their best.

“The best teacher I’ve ever had,” one student wrote.

The backpacks will be distributed through Project Connect, an initiative of the school district to provide donated school supplies to the students who need them most.

During Project Connect’s annual event, teachers visit the homes of their students to deliver the filled backpacks, Forsyth schools spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said.

“Tammy was a servant leader that loved children,” Caracciolo said in a statement. “The generous backpack/supplies donations in her memory is a touching tribute.”

Donations can be made in Waddell’s memory to Project Connect through Forsyth County Schools at the main office, 1120 Dahlonega Hwy. in Cumming, or by calling the school district at 770-887-2461.