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Former School District Five teacher surprised during special celebration

For Immediate Release – December 2, 2019



Former School District Five teacher surprised during special celebration

IRMO – A former Lexington-Richland School District Five teacher received the surprise of a lifetime during a special ceremony at Irmo Elementary School.


Barbara “Momma T” Thomas, who is now 84, was told by her daughter that she would be attending a reunion for former Miss Yellow Jacket winners.  When she arrived in the school’s auditorium, she was greeted with cheers from family, friends and former colleagues who wanted to honor and celebrate her legendary teaching career at Irmo Elementary School. 


She was brought up on stage as a dozen of her former students, colleagues, family and friends took the stage to share what Thomas means to them.


Former student Jane Rish shared about her time in Thomas’ class.  “I want to take this opportunity to thank you, now, for being such a wonderful teacher and for giving me such happy memories during the time I was in your class.  I loved you then and I loved you now.”


Former colleague Wanda Pearson added, “You have made such an invaluable impact on our lives and we will always be grateful.”


Former administrator at Irmo Elementary during Thomas’ teaching days, principal Ken Frick, also took the stage to share his memories of working with her.  “I have such wonderful memories of Irmo Elementary School and Barbara Thomas.  I am just so proud that you are being recognized for what you did during your career.  You are very deserving!”


Thomas’ daughter Pam Cope told the crowd, “Every time I meet someone who had my Mom as a teacher they tell me she was their favorite teacher.  So that is really, really awesome to hear since she is my favorite Mom too!  I couldn’t wish for a better mom!”


This idea was born when one of Thomas’ former students Brian Pena attended the visitation and funeral for his fifth grade Irmo Elementary School teacher Patricia Bouknight.  He ran into Barbara Thomas there and rekindled their student-teacher bond. He then began to try to think of a way he could let former teachers, especially Mrs. Thomas, know the impact they had on his life and the lives of others.  


“This has been such a labor of love over the last few weeks to get this all together to honor a wonderful teacher in Mrs. Barbara Thomas,” said Pena.  “My other former teacher Vicki Horne tells me all the time that when you honor one teacher you honor them all.”


Pena presented Thomas with a huge certificate with over 100 signatures of former students, teachers, and administrators. Representative Chip Huggins also presented Thomas with a House Resolution honoring her life and long teaching career.


“I am speechless and I am seldom speechless,” Thomas said.  “I always have something to say, I always have some place to go and something to do and I usually know what I am doing but not today.  I did not know what I was doing as I walked down that aisle, I was in complete shock.  It is the biggest privilege I have ever been given.  It is just wonderful and something that I will never forget!”