Students raising money for Central Texas art teacher’s eye surgery

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 10:12 PM CST
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WEST, Texas (KWTX) - A group of students in West are raising money for their art teacher’s eye surgery.

”She’s always talking about how it’s hard for her to see, so I we knew we had to do something,” said Wyatt Sexton, a freshman at West High School.

Sexton is part of a group of freshman boys raising money for substitute teacher Stephanie Bearden.

“I have cataracts,” said Bearden. “I’m adapting and modifying the way I do things, I have put the kids’ artwork further away from me so I can see it better, I didn’t realize how bad it was going to get.”

Bearden, a retired Waco ISD art teacher, has been subbing at West ISD for two years.

In September, she started substitute teaching in the art department more regularly after the teacher was let go.

“Principal Klander asked me to take it on a more permanent basis,” said Bearden.

Bearden said she was taking the job, not just for the joy of teaching, but because she needed the money for eye surgery.

She says they got off to a rough start.

“At first they rebelled,” said Bearden. “They weren’t used to someone who actually taught art and had discipline.”

However, she stuck with it, and says the students started coming around.

“I was teaching them something about art, and then I was teaching them life skills,” she said.

The students overheard her talking about the expense of her eye surgery because insurance doesn’t cover it: she had to take out a loan, and later learned about additional expenses she didn’t anticipate.

“It made us feel really bad for her and we wanted to help her the best possible way we could, so we thought a GoFundMe so the whole community could help out, not just us,” said Gage Kirkpatrick.

The students created a GoFundMe page in Bearden’s honor, hoping to raise $5,000 to cover her surgery costs.

“She’s different from all the other teachers, she shows us things that will help us,” said Aydan York, a freshman at West HS. “She shows us that if we give her respect, she gives us respect.”

The first $450 came from the students’ own pockets.

“It took us a minute to warm up to her, but now we’re a lot closer to her and she’s done so much for us and it just means the world for us to have her here,” said Kirkpatrick. “This class could be nothing because we lost our other teacher, and that wasn’t so much an art class as just coming here and messing around, and now we take things seriously, we’re actually learning stuff, and we’re not only learning art in here.”

Bearden says she teaches them responsibility, taking care of their spaces and supplies, and accountability.

“I want to teach them art and about life, and art is the reflection of life, that is something that’s every art teacher’s goal, but I also want to teach them that what they do now counts,” said Bearden.

She also wants them to know that they count.

“Their lives matter and they can do ANYTHING!” she said. “I feel like I am here because God wanted me to be here to touch these kids lives to show them that they CAN do something.”

She says she was speechless when she heard about the GoFundMe page.

“I just couldn’t believe it that they would do that for me,” said Bearden. “It’s just so wonderful.”

West ISD Superintendent David Truitt says he couldn’t be prouder.

“For a substitute to make an impact like this where the kids are looking for ways that they can help her, returning and giving back to her for all she’s doing for them, is really unique,” said Truitt. “As you talk about giving your time and energy to others and serving, you hope it’s setting in and the seed is coming through...their GoFundMe account and how they’re trying to help her is very special.”

For more information on how to donate click here.

Bearden is scheduled to have eye surgery on Dec. 13.

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