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Fayetteville teacher closes door to classroom after 61 years of service

Fayetteville teacher Thelma Thomason taught in the Fayetteville district since 1961 and is going to retire at the end of the 2023 school year.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Teaching can sometimes be a thankless job, but after 61 years in the classroom, Fayetteville teacher Thelma Thomason is finally getting her flowers.

"She's amazing," said Andrea Sego, principal of Vandergriff Elementary.

Several former and current students along with co-workers lined outside of the door to reunite with Ms. Thomason once again.

"I thought that was the sweetest thing," said Ms. Thomason. She began working at Fayetteville Public Schools as a school counselor in 1961, seven years after the district started integrating.

"She has taught generation after generation - I would say about probably three or four generations," Sego said. She's worked with Ms. Thomason for 21 years.

"She's very nice because she taught for a long time," said former student Nathan Skinner who is now in the second grade. 

"It's been so long, she's been teaching forever," said Charli Skinner who attends Vandergriff Elementary.

Thomason taught through several social, technological changes and health emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

"God is just good for me because I didn't even get a cold whenever they had that stuff going around. I didn't even get sick," said Thomason.

Although the pandemic did not stop her, after 61 years of teaching, Thomason plans on retiring.

"I want to work in the yard and then I'm going to go antiquing, that's my favorite thing," Thomason said. 

She tells us the one lesson she hopes her students understand is this: "You only get one life once, make the best out of every day. If you fail at something today, talk to yourself and say you'll do better tomorrow. Never, never give up," Thomason said.

Rep. Denise Garner was at Ms. Thomason's celebration. Rep. Garner gave Thomason a citation on behalf of the Arkansas House recognizing her for her many accomplishments.

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