Skyline Kindergarten teacher of 30 years says students keep her going

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JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - She's been teaching for 30 years.  Now a former student's son is getting the benefit of learning from a woman who made a lasting impact on his mom.

This week, we surprised Debbie Hastings, a Kindergarten teacher at Skyline School with our $319 Tools For Teachers award.  Hastings has taught kindergarteners for 30 years, and that takes a special kind of person.

"The school is lucky to have her. The community is lucky to have her," said Kevin Dukes, Skyline Principal.  "She's the type of person -- we need more people like her in our schools."

A parent's nomination prompted our trip to Jackson County.  Our goal was to surprise Ms. Hastings.  But it didn't take long for this quick-on-her-feet teacher to figure out what was going on.

"I'm with WHNT," we said.  "I know who you are," she replied.  "Do you know why I'm here?  "Yes, I do," said Hastings.

"This is $319 for you to spend in your classroom," we said.  "Oh yay!  Guys, we got some money to spend in our room!" she said to her class.

Hastings' excitement turned more emotional when we explained that the parent who nominated her was also a former student.

A generation ago, Holly Burns was a kindergartener in Ms. Hastings class, just like her son is today.

Burns credits Ms. Hastings for the remarkable growth she sees in her son and says her former teacher has only gotten better through the years.

It's no wonder the success of Ms. Hastings. Teaching is in her blood.

"My whole family was teachers.  My grandmother was a teacher, my mom was a teacher.  I knew from when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher. I used to play school with my dolls when I was little," Hastings said.

After all the years, she's says it's her students who keep Ms. Hastings going strong.

"You could have a bad day at home.  You could have bad things going on in your life, but once you're at school, they don't let you think of anything else," she said.

Click here to nominate an educator for an upcoming Tools For Schools feature!