WACO, Texas (KWTX) Praise is pouring in for a local librarian whom co-workers call "one of the giants on which the future of Woodway will stand" as she retires as the longest-tenured staff member of the school.
Emily Tawater spent 26 years making reading fun as librarian at Woodway Elementary School in the Midway ISD. (Courtesy photo)
Emily Tawater spent 26 years as librarian at Woodway Elementary School in the Midway ISD, eight years at the original campus before it was torn down and 18 years at the current school.
She retiring this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which made a traditional retirement party impossible, but that didn’t stop her coworkers and students from celebrating the impact she's made on thousands of kids and adults.
"Your name will now be added to a long list of respected individuals who have made their mark on Woodway history," longtime kindergarten teacher Shalynna Mosley said.
"One of the giants on which the future of Woodway will stand."
It's a sentiment echoed by second grade teacher Kristiana Reinhardt.
"Emily Tawater is the epitome of Woodway Elementary," she said.
"She has honored Woodway's rich, proud history."
Tawater's husband, Mike, whom she married 25 years ago after being reintroduced by the Woodway school nurse, describes her as “the quintessential librarian" whose true passion in life is helping kids discover the joy and adventure in reading.
"She's soft spoken, sweet, kind, tenderhearted, and she loves kids and reading," he said. "The library has always been her happy place even she when was a student herself."
Tawater excelled in academics at a young age.
She was the valedictorian of the 1984 Jefferson Moore High School class in Waco with the highest GPA of any student up to that point in the Waco ISD.
She went on to graduate from Baylor with an education degree before earning her masters in library science at Sam Houston State.
Emily's nearly three-decade career started as a kindergarten teacher in Robinson in 1988.
The next year she moved to Lorena where she was a kindergarten teacher for three years, but she felt a calling to the library so from 1992 to 1994 she was the district librarian in Lorena.
In 1994, Emily made her move to Woodway where she would spend the next 28 years as librarian.
Countless children have passed through her library where she's done everything from elaborate character dress-up days to using a brown bear puppet to make reading fun for the kids.
Second grader Taylor Jarrett said she's had a special connection with the librarian since day one.
"What I've loved about you the years I've been at Woodway is you welcomed me with open arms when I came to the library for my first time in kindergarten," Jarrett said.
"Also you made me feel like I was home because I have a love of reading and so do you."
Missy Keen took her kindergarten classes to Tawater's library for 14 years and said her students always looked forward to hearing the stories shared by the lover of literature.
"My kindergarten classes have always absolutely loved going to her library and listening to her brown bear puppet talk about great authors and wonderful stories."
Tawater also made sure traditions withstood the test of time.
She kept the school's scrapbook and organized a day each year graduating seniors could come back to visit their elementary school classrooms one last time.
Tawater may be leaving her day job but her husband says her retirement plans revolve around, no surprise, the kids.
She hopes to have a pumpkin patch or tree farm at her house to which students can take field trips and she can read to them.
Teachers will take her up on that, but say day in and day out, the school librarian will be greatly missed.
"She has a quiet strength about her that draws you to her and makes you feel known and accepted." Reinhardt said. "She leaves an irreplaceable void on this campus and district."
"You have served Woodway admirably," Mosely added.
"Enjoy the retirement you so richly deserve."