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LISD students honor teachers at annual Lamplighter Awards

By Christina Lane
April 8, 2011 at 2:33 a.m.


After losing her father to cancer a year ago, Andrea Simonton said she didn't seem to hurt as much when she was sitting in her seventh-grade science classroom.

"Like all my other teachers, Mr. Russell sympathized with me; however, he continued to teach me and treat me like a regular person, which was something that seemed like no one else could accomplish," she said of science teacher Bill Russell.

"He continued to joke and teach just like any other day. For once, I wasn't forcing a smile. I wasn't holding back tears. When I was in his classroom, I didn't seem to hurt inside."

The 2011 Lamplighter Awards banquet was an emotional night for Longview ISD students, staff, parents and community supporters.

"I am amazed at the children," Longview ISD Foundation Director Kay Ray said. "You don't realize what they are going through."

Students from each campus write essays during the school year about a staff member – whether it is a principal, teacher or custodian – who has been a lamplighter to them. The Longview ISD Foundation, which holds the banquet, has a board that reads all of the essays and selects one winner from each campus. The essays are read at the banquet, and the student and staff member are honored.

"Mr. Lucas is practically like a grandfather to me," Hudson PEP fifth-grader Morgan-Taylor Thomas wrote of her lamplighter, custodian Carl Lucas.

Morgan-Taylor, who cried as her essay was read, said Lucas has been by her side when things were not going well.

"This year, in particular, is a prime example of that," she wrote. "On multiple occasions he really brought my spirits up while my dad was in Iraq. He constantly reminded me not to worry and reassured me that everything would be okay. Also, he counted down the days with me and my little brother, Stephen, until my dad returned."

It wasn't just students who faced difficult times this past year. In some cases at this year's Lamplighter Awards, it was students who recognized teachers for shining through during their times of personal tragedy.

Forest Park Middle School teacher Paige Mayes began to cry as high school senior Chloe Yu recalled a memory of Mayes' son, Carter, dressed in a Spider-Man T-shirt, sitting on the couch, watching an episode of "SpongeBob." She honored Mayes for her optimism and perseverance in the months since her son's death in December.

"Mrs. Mayes is the wind beneath my wings," said Yu, who babysat Mayes' three children, including Carter. "She is what motivates me each morning and is an angel in disguise."

The Lamplighter Awards, which raises money for the foundation to provide grants to teachers and campuses, paid special tribute to its founder, Mickey Melton.

"It is his finest legacy," Ray said.

Melton, who helped found the foundation, received the annual Cornerstone Award posthumously. Melton, a former Longview ISD school board member and a Lobo graduate, died in April 2010.

"It means a lot to me," Melton's widow, Rebecca, said as she accepted the award. "Mickey really had a heart for kids, and he also was a great supporter of public education."

She said he lived by the thought that if he worked hard enough, he could fix things.

"I thank you for recognizing the fact that Mickey tried to make a difference," she said.

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