Oak Ridge English teacher remembered
Early in 2010 former Oak Ridge teacher-of-the year Tina O’Meara, who was entering the fifth year of her battle with pancreatic cancer, refused Village Life’s request for an interview.
She lost the battle in October, and became one of just 4 percent of pancreatic cancer victims that survive that long
She turned us down because “She wasn’t ready start saying good-bye,” said her husband Mike, who was at Oak Ridge on May 10 with about 30 friends, family members and faculty to dedicate a plaque to his wife.
During the ceremony he called her five-year survival “miraculous,” and attributed it to “the grace of God, her strength of character, positive attitude, good medical care and the loving support that all of you gave to her,” he said. “Her passion was teaching, and she loved her Oak Ridge family.”
Oak Ridge Scouts Todd Anderson and Brandon Collins from Troup 645 presented the flag, then choir director Natalie Miller’s chamber singers performed “America the Beautiful” and the “Oak Ridge Alma Mater.”
O’Meara asked Miller if a couple kids could come out and perform. “They all wanted to attend,” he beamed.
Oak Ridge drama teacher Janet Henke started out teaching freshman English. She recalled Tina O’Meara’s mentoring in the early days. “She knew how to put things into perspective, and was a great listener,” she said. “I’ll miss her.”
Henke, who helped raise funds for the plaque, added that her friend would have loved the music. “She was very patriotic.”
Speakers included Principal Steve Weir, who called O’Meara an “incredible teacher,” and O’Meara’s son Scott Hyman, who said, “She truly loved this school.”
Rolling Hills church’s very first services were held at Oak Ridge. Pastor Jeff Bigalow was back to help dedicate O’Meara’s plaque. His daughter Meredith taught with her. His son Joel was her student.
“Tina had a positive impact on hundreds of students that came through her classes,” he said.
O’Meara recalled his wife’s belief in confidence, hard work and pride. “She always told her kids not to be afraid of hard work; that it builds confidence and character.
“She encouraged them to believe in themselves, and went so far as to hand a large banner above her blackboard that said ‘If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right’.”
O’Meara recalled the last thing his wife told her students each year: “‘Make me proud of you’, and so many of them did.”