As schools around the country begin to re-open this month, the children and faculty at Nolan Elementary in Signal Mountain will be greeted by a new, shiny, green Buddy Bench. What looks like a simple outdoor bench with the words “Buddy Bench” cut into the back, has a much deeper significance to the Nolan community. It is one that signifies strength, courage, kindness and love, donated in honor of a soul that was lost far too soon, said officials.
An 18-year veteran at Nolan Elementary, Becky Leary was known for driving her third-grade students persuasive writing efforts that benefited the school each year. It was through Ms. Leary’s teachings and her student’s persistence, that the first Buddy Bench made its appearance at the school.
The original bench was a standard steel bench with a banner that stated, “Buddy Bench” and featured a Knight (they are the Nolan Knights) befriending a Dragon. The bench brought awareness to bullying, it encouraged conflict resolution, and encouraged students to notice what is going on around them. Over time, the weather took its toll on the banner and it became faded and unusable.
Ms. Leary lost her loving daughter Karrah, at the young age of 32, to Stage 4 pancreatic cancer on Feb. 8, 2019. The loss shook the community, and both faculty and students alike wanted to show support for their beloved teacher. When asked what they could do, Ms. Leary simply stated that she would want a permanent Buddy Bench, underneath a tree on the property, that is a constant reminder to love one another and to slow down and appreciate what you have. It is a true testament to Karrah’s life and memory.
“[This] is the main reason that the Buddy Bench is perfect for Nolan, to extend a hand of kindness, when our students need it the most, and to feel accepted by others," said Ms. Leary. "We never know what is going on in someone’s life, but if we show compassion and empathy, it will always be remembered. Life is a gift. We are never promised tomorrow. Let each of us begin our first steps at making a positive difference in our world.”
The permanent Buddy Bench now sits underneath a beautiful shaded tree on Nolan’s playground. This is a reminder
“..always appreciate one another, do your best, and be kind…always.” Becky Leary
To learn more about Nolan Elementary, please visit https://nolan.hcde.org/.