Columbus High senior Kayla Carter, left, stops by Stokes-Beard Elementary School to say hello to her former pre-K teacher, Regina Wash. Every year after Kayla left pre-K, Wash has called Kayla on the first day of school to wish her good luck. Carter says she looked forward to those calls each year and they were a source of encouragement. Photo by: Slim Smith/Dispatch Staff
August 8, 2018 10:59:55 AM
Early Monday morning, Columbus High School senior Kayla Carter got a phone call from her teacher wishing her good luck on the first day of school.
That would be unusual enough in its own right.
But the Monday morning phone call came not from one of her current teachers, but her first teacher.
Every year, for the past 13 years, Kayla gets a call on the first day of school from Regina Wash, her pre-K teacher at Stokes-Beard Elementary School.
Monday's call was the most special of them all.
"We had an emotional moment this morning," said Kayla's mom, Melissa Carter. "Kayla's a senior this year, so I guess this will be the last year Ms. Wash calls."
Wash, who has been teaching for 23 years, and starting her 14th year at Stokes-Beard, said she's kept up with a handful of her former students over the years. Somehow, though, Kayla was different.
"She was just a very outgoing child," Wash said. "She reminded me of myself when I was that age. There was just a joy about her and she loved learning."
Wash said she never set out to call Kayla on the first day of school every year.
"But the day she started second grade, I called her to wish her good luck and she asked me if I was going to call her every year. So I just made it a point to do it. It seemed like she really liked it."
It meant more to Kayla than Wash likely realized.
"Sometimes school can get hard and you get discouraged," Kayla said. "Every year, I looked forward to Ms. Wash calling at 6 o'clock on the first day of school. It always lifted my spirits.
"She would tell me she was proud of me and pushed me to do better," she added. "It was just a lot of encouragement."
Kayla said she remembers her best friend talking about her favorite teachers.
"When I told her that Ms. Wash called me every day on the first day of school, she couldn't believe it," she said.
Next fall, Kayla plans to attend Jackson State where she will study biology.
She'll carry with her the memories of those first-day-of-school phone calls.
"I'll always remember," she said. " I'm crying now, just thinking about it."
Monday was also the first day of school for Cherie Labat as the superintendent for the Columbus Municipal School District superintendent. The story of the phone call only reinforces what Labat has long understood as an educator.
"It's amazing," Labat said. "What people don't know is that there are a lot of stories like that everywhere. These are personal relationships teachers have with students. I guarantee you there are probably 50 more stories like this out there. But this is my district, my teachers. It's great to hear on your first day."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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