It was a heartfelt reunion on Tuesday for LaFollette Elementary School 4th grade teacher Bridget Thomas and her former elementary school teacher Marshall McGhee.

By Charlotte Underwood    

LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – A fourth grade LaFollette Elementary School teacher had a great surprise on Tuesday when her own former teacher and role model paid her a visit. 

Bridget Thomas’s 4th grade class burst into applause for their teacher when her former elementary teacher Marshall McGhee paid them a surprise visit on Tuesday.

Back in 1982, Marshall McGhee taught Bridget (Henegar) Thomas in the fourth grade at Briceville Elementary School in Anderson County and in fifth grade the following year. How he taught his students left a lasting impression, inspiring her to follow her own dream of teaching 40 years later. 

The pair had a touching reunion on Tuesday in Thomas’s 4th grade classroom when the nearly 87- year- old McGhee and his wife Shirley stopped in for a surprise visit.

It was an emotional Thomas who hugged her former teacher. Students in her class immediately began to say this “must be her old teacher she always talks about.” Another student said “this is a reunion” and the whole class began clapping spontaneously. 

Memories came to life as new ones were made Tuesday morning when former student, now teacher, and her mentor reunited.

McGhee even brought an old yearbook with a picture of his 1982 fourth grade class with Thomas in it for her students to see. 

It had been years since they had seen each other.

McGhee, who turns 87 in a little more than a month, has been retired from teaching for 31 years. 

“She looks like she did when she was in the fourth grade, just taller,” McGhee said as he showed her students a picture of their teacher when she was little. 

“She was a good student and was always quiet and well behaved,” McGhee said.

Shirley McGhee, Marshall McGhee and LaFollette Elementary School teacher Bridget Thomas. Thomas is Marshall McGhee’s former student from Briceville Elementary School and was inspired to teach because of him.

Thomas has been teaching for three years. It had always been a life long dream of hers after she was inspired by Mr. McGhee.

For 15 years, Thomas was in the health information management field, but finally followed her dream of teaching in 2020. 

She credits McGhee as her inspiration to switch careers and become a teacher. 

“In elementary school, I was so scared until I went into Mr. McGhee’s class. His class was the first time I felt accepted and like I could learn. He was gentle and soft spoken and would always do kind things for us kids,” Thomas said.

She even nominated him for the Who’s Who in American Teachers when she was in high school as well as “his kindness stayed with her over the years.”

She had written a letter to McGhee about a year ago telling him how he had inspired her to teach and influenced her own style of teaching.

It was this letter that inspired McGhee to pay a visit to Thomas on Tuesday.

Bridget Thomas is Marshall McGhee’s former student from Briceville Elementary School and was inspired to teach because of him.

“All my students over the years were wonderful, and I’m just so proud of her and all she has accomplished and the job she’s doing,” McGhee said.

“I strive to foster the same environment in my classroom that Mr. McGhee had in his. I want my students to feel safe, especially when they make mistakes, and loved. I want to hear laughter and see smiles on their faces- a legacy handed down to me from Mr. McGhee,”  Thomas said. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 12/20/2023-6AM)

One Reply to “Letter prompts surprise reunion; mentor meets up with former student”

  1. This story made me cry, I have know Marshall and Shirley many years. Heard all kinds of story from Shirley whom I worked with at The LaFollette Nursing Home for many years. Many students loved him. Shirley was also an inspiration to people I learned alot from that lady which I have carried out at my career 45 years here at Tennova LaFollette Medical Center. Two great people. Jackie Brogan Spurlock

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