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Hallettsville seniors recognize teachers during ceremony

By Jessica Rodrigo
May 27, 2014 at 12:27 a.m.
Updated May 28, 2014 at 12:28 a.m.

Jane Todd, 52, left, hugs Abby Renner, 18, right, after she is honored with a  bell from Renner at the second annual Bell Awards Ceremony at Hallettsville High School. "She was always there to listen to me; she made me feel welcome. It means a lot to see her do what she does for me and other students. I want to be wise and trusted like her," Renner said about Todd, who has been her teacher for four years. "I was speechless; she is the most awesome person I've ever met. She made me feel very special," Todd said.

HALLETTSVILLE - Jane Todd shed a few tears when one of her students handed her an engraved bell award.

She sat on the stage of the Hallettsville High School Cafetorium on Tuesday alongside senior Abby Renner, who read a speech about how Todd was such a great teacher.

"She is always smiling," Renner, 18, said. "There were always students coming into her room to sit down and talk to her."

The high school senior is one of the top 10 students graduating this year who was chosen to recognize one teacher who made a significant impact on their educational career. The bells, each etched with the year and made with a wooden handle, were awarded by the students in front of the graduating class, teachers and family.

Todd, 52, said she was invited to the ceremony Friday but didn't know whom the recognition was coming from.

"When (Renner) started talking, I knew it was me," Todd said.

Renner said she had a hard time narrowing down her favorite teachers. She said Todd has always been there to encourage her and support her in all her school projects and endeavors.

Another top student, Nehali Bhakta, chose a teacher she bonded with from the start.

"It really helped that she loved Michael Jackson and loved to dance," Bhakta said about Sikina Davis during her presentation.

She decided last year during the inaugural bell award ceremony that she wanted to make top honors so she could hand a bell to Davis before she graduated.

"She was my driving force for being in the top 10," Bhakta said. "I wanted to make it happen."

Davis, 44, a teacher at Vysehrad Elementary School, had no idea about the award. She was invited to the ceremony but said she didn't know much else.

None of the teachers knew which students were awarding them with a bell, said Jo Ann Bludau, Hallettsville school district superintendent.

The idea to start the ceremony at Hallettsville High School came from the recognition she received at the Yoakum High School Bell Awards Ceremony. She has received bells twice from students she taught while at Sweet Home School.

"It was very, very exciting to receive those bells, and it just touched my heart," Bludau said. "I really wanted to give teachers and students an opportunity to receive recognition for their academic achievements as well as excellence in teaching."

Davis began putting the pieces together as Bhakta walked across the stage to her seat at the beginning of the program.

"It feels good to help her. I'm so proud," she said.

A smile spread on Davis' face when Bhakta talked about sharing new dance moves with her former teacher.

"Ever since the day I met her, I was so close to her," Bhakta said.

Renner's friends shared the excitement for Todd when they found out she would receive a bell award. They agreed that Todd would be thrilled, she said.

"It's great that a student gets a chance to recognize a teacher for all they do," Renner said. "We all remember our favorite teacher. It's important that we let them know."

It was hard for Todd to conjure the words to express her gratitude. She described the feeling of being recognized in front of other former students as awesome.

"It's surprising to know how much you impact them," Todd said.

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