Tree planted asa tribute to former teacher
Jody Parker, a reading coach at Graham Elementary School, watches students Keandre Brand and Dalton Long plant a Crimson King Maple Tree Friday in honor of National Arbor Day and as a tribute to former first-grade teacher Nancy King. More than 350 students, faculty members and visitors paid their respects to King, who died in January.
TALLADEGA — More than 350 students, faculty members and visitors at Graham Elementary School gathered Friday around the flag pole and a tree planted in honor of National Arbor Day as a tribute to one of the school’s former employees.

The Crimson King Maple tree symbolized 16 years of dedication from former first-grade teacher Nancy King, who retired in December. King died in January at the age of 56 after losing her battle with cancer.

“She was a wonderful, caring, loving individual who dedicated her life to educating students and living her life to make a difference,” principal Melissa Dyer said. “She was devoted to the first-grade class of students that she taught each year. If I had a dollar for every day that she was the last teacher here, stayed after I left or came up to work in her classroom during the summer we could all go to Pizza Hut for lunch and to Dairy Queen for dessert afterwards.”

Dyer relayed an anecdote to the crowd regarding a tree display made in the first-grade hall where each student was given an opportunity to write a memory about King on the leaves.

“One student stated that King remembered every holiday,” Dyer said. “She did. Whether it was the Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras, Bosses Day or her students’ birthdays, she celebrated every day of life that she could.”

King’s active involvement and passion shown toward saving the rainforest prompted the principal to rename the high school cafeteria “King’s Rainforest Café” as a secondary honor for King’s impact at the school.

“Over the years, King demonstrated leadership by selling T-shirts for this cause,” Dyer said. “She and the students, teachers and parents of Graham helped to save 250 acres of rainforest.”

Dyer asked those in the crowd to raise their hands if they had purchased a rainforest T-shirt in the past 15 years. A sea of hands rose from the crowd in response.

“That is what I would call a living legacy!” Dyer exclaimed.

Jody Parker, a reading coach at the school, selected the tree to be planted in King’s memory. Parker said she accidentally backed into the perfect choice while searching the store and introspectively examining King’s legacy.

“It was so great to find a tree where all three words in the name represented King,” Parker said. “Crimson King Maple could not have been a more perfect choice. King was an Alabama fan and she was fond of maple trees. It’s almost as if she wanted us to pick this tree.”

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© 2013