Saying farewell to teacher Barbara Thornton

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Shelby Foster

Teacher Barbara Thornton has been teaching at the Mill since the day it opened. Having taught a wide variety of subjects and touching a lot of students hearts, Thornton appreciates the memories she’s made and looks forward to spending more time with her family in retirement.

After 36 years of teaching, Barbara Thornton will retire at the end of this school year. She has been at Starr’s Mill since the day it opened in 1997.

I admire that many [students with disabilities] don’t give up, and they work hard to overcome these struggles.  Most of them are very appreciative of the help they receive from their teachers and their peers.”

— retiring teacher Barbara Thornton

Thornton has a degree in special education and has collaborated in numerous classes and subjects, including Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Economics, Physical Science, and additionally in other resource math classes. Before working here, Thornton taught at Havelock High School in North Carolina, and then was a teacher at McIntosh.

“I love the students,” Thornton said. “I love the teachers that I teach with.”

Thornton’s love for teaching began with her love of interacting with children. She started out working with kids in her church while she was in high school. She later worked at an Elaine Clark Center where she focused on dealing with students with special needs. Ever since then, Thornton has had a passion for assisting not only students but those with special needs.

Students with special needs have a lot to overcome academically, socially, etc,” Thornton said. “I admire that many of them don’t give up, and they work hard to overcome these struggles.  Most of them are very appreciative of the help they receive from their teachers and their peers.”

Even though she has a love for teaching, Thornton says that she is ready to retire after her 36-year career. She looks most forward to getting to spend more time with her grandchildren, but also admits that with all the free time she’ll have, she’ll probably pick up a part-time job.

“Another memory that will forever be ingrained in my mind was the year SMHS went to the playoffs and we played in the Dome,” Thornton said, as she recalled several memories from her career. “We had a door decorating contest. I was teaching with Mrs. Salter, who we all miss dearly, in a math class. Our two classes decided to decorate her door. The students really got into this. We won the decorating contest. Super special, as many know Mrs. Salter passed away from cancer several years ago. I will forever remember her, the classes we taught together, and the special times we had while decorating.”

Aside from teaching, Thornton loves to read, crochet, and do projects around the house. Thornton also hopes to one day visit Germany since some of her heritage originates from there. Another “bucket-list” activity includes going on a big, family cruise with her children and grandchildren.

My friends here at SMHS are true friends. I will miss each and every one of them.”

— retiree Barbara Thornton

“I will miss my Starr’s Mill family and the students but will treasure the memories made here,” Thornton said. “My Starr’s Mill family really pulled together to help last year while I went through medical issues. They were there with dinners, visits to my home, and even just phone calls to check on how was doing. My friends here at SMHS are true friends. I will miss each and every one of them.”

Thornton’s children, nieces, and nephews all came through Starr’s Mill, so this school holds a special place in her heart. These students, however, are not the only ones she’s close with. Thornton has been invited to the weddings and college graduations of several students that she has previously taught.

“Being invited to past students’ college graduations and their weddings are very special as it has made me feel as though I left a positive impression on those students,” Thornton said. “We teachers invest a lot in our students and for them to include us in some of their ‘special’ events after high school is truly special.”

It is clear that Thornton has made an impact on students even after they have left school, a legacy she’ll leave behind as she prepares to say goodbye.