A teacher's lesson in humanity brings out the best from her students and the community

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:53

Newton — On Monday morning, Tricia Woodhead was back as expected at Halstead School in Newton, where she teaches sixth- and seventh-graders. There is nothing out of the ordinary about that. Her weekend, however, was anything but usual. The Branchville resident and mother of two, along with her husband, Roger, took a 900-plus mile trip to the center of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina, to bring supplies for the relief efforts. The Woodheads' plans started as a personal desire to aid those in need, but grew to become a community-wide effort that mobilized everyone in the immediate area, from the town's Rotary Club to the Woodheads' neighbors along their quiet street. "My son and I were watching the news and we had a desire to help," said Tricia Woodhead during an interview last Friday, just hours before she was to head south. "As soon as we made it known, we had people making it a full-time job to collect supplies." The response from the community was encompassing. Castner's Auction and Appraisal Services lent one of its trucks so the Woodheads could deliver the donations. Melaine Matthies, president-elect of the Branville Rotary Club, came to the Woodheads' home to deliver a check for $276, collected by her organization to help defray the cost of fuel. All along, neighbors and school children from Newton, Sandyston, Fredon and Frankford donated bags full of clothes, groceries, personal hygiene items and event toys for the displaced children they had seen on the television screens. "There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from our area for our fellow citizens in the south," said Tricia Woodhead. "And we have made a lot of personal friends in the process." The Woodheads estimate that they collected some 1,500 pounds in donations, which were delivered on Saturday to a relief center run by the Salvation Army in Clarksville Tenn., where some 600 evacuees were expected to arrive over the weekend. "I want to thank all the students, parents, teachers and neighbors who are setting a good example by reaching out to people who needed our help," said Tricia Woodhead. Before leaving on Friday, Tricia Woodhead discussed with her students her weekend plans and they promised to help with any issue that may arise because of her project. "I warned my students that I may be a little tired on Monday and they promised to behave," said Tricia Woodhead. On Monday, after three days and more than 40 hours riding in a truck in an effort to help others, the teacher was back at the helm of her class and her students had kept their word. "They were very patient with me because I only had seven hours of sleep the whole weekend," said Mrs. Woodhead, as her students call her. "They were well behaved and had lots of questions."