Danville-Neel teacher earns veteran's honor
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Danville-Neel Elementary School first grade teacher Kim Smith was recently honored as the Morgan County Veterans of Foreign Wars 2003 Teacher of the Year for a project honoring a local soldier.
Last April, Smith expanded upon an idea she had implemented in her classroom each of the 13 years she has taught at Danville. Each Christmas, Smith and her students design quilt squares to be made into a quilt and raffled. Proceeds from the raffle are then used to buy Christmas presents for needy children.
"It was the beginning of the war in Iraq and I thought it would be a neat idea for the entire school to make a quilt to send to a soldier," Smith recalled. "One of our teachers, Melissa Ozbolt, has a son in the Navy who was serving in the war at the time, so we decided it would be a nice idea to send it to him."
More than 20 homeroom classes at Danville-Neel participated in the quilting project for Ozbolt's son, Thomas. Smith said each child from each class contributed to one of the quilt squares, fashioning such designs as patriotic symbols and fingerprint sailors.
However, Smith said the most touching design came from Ozbolt's own class.
"Mrs. Ozbolt told us a story about having to leave Thomas for a trip once when he was young and it made him sad. She told him to look at the moon that night when he was missing her and know that she would be looking at the moon, too," Smith said. "Her class made a square with a moon design for Thomas' quilt. It was just precious, so we made sure to have it placed on the quilt where it would be close to his heart."
Smith said Thomas' grandmother has been working on quilting the special project since early fall. She brought it to the school's Pioneers Day festival so the students could she its progress.
"Thomas is already home from the war, but we're all still very excited about presenting the quilt to him," Smith said. "Every year my class makes a quilt, the kids hate to give it up, but I explain to them that the quilt shows our history and ties people together."
The Morgan County VFW presented Smith with a $100 award for her project. Smith and her students used the award money to make eight Holiday Hope Chest boxes, sponsored by the Volunteer Center of Morgan County each Christmas, for four girls and four boys.
"I'm kind of embarrassed that I received the award," Smith admitted. "I think it should have been presented to the entire school for doing such a great job on the quilt project."