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Vidalia Lower Elementary teacher set to retire

Torri Webber, a kindergarten teacher at Vidalia Lower Elementary and planning to retire after this school year, tosses a ball during a game Friday morning. The purpose of the game was to help teach students how to rhyme. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter / The Natchez Democrat)

Torri Webber, a kindergarten teacher at Vidalia Lower Elementary and planning to retire after this school year, tosses a ball during a game Friday morning. The purpose of the game was to help teach students how to rhyme. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter / The Natchez Democrat)

By Mary Kathryn Carpenter

NATCHEZ — After 30 years and more than 800 students, the word “positive” is used often by those who know or were taught by Torri Webber throughout her teaching career.

Webber is retiring at the end of this school year.

As an elementary school teacher in the Concordia Parish school system, those who know Webber claim their lives have been touched through association with her.

Vidalia Lower Elementary Principal Charles Anderson, whose son is currently one of Webber’s students, said he is impressed with her teaching style.

“She addresses the entire child,” Anderson said. “Not just the learning side.”

Jessica Cochran, a former student of Webber’s and mother of one of Webber’s current students, Alli Arthur, said she has noticed a change in her daughter since she started kindergarten in Webber’s class.

“(Alli) has come out of her shell and she’s learning to open up,” Cochran said. “She doesn’t want to go to first grade because she wants to stay and play with Mrs. Webber.”

Webber has made more than a temporary impression on elementary age students.

The lessons she taught are still looked back on by adults who took her class more than three decades ago.

Jody Hammett, a student of Webber’s during her second year of teaching, remembers being taught how to treat others with respect and equality, despite differences.

“There was a girl who was run over by a car who was in our classroom,” Hammett said. “(Webber) handled it so well. She treated her like any other student while also taking care of her needs. She leads by example and everyone who knows her has a positive image of her.”

Webber said she has always strived to be an accepting teacher.

“When (students) come to me, I want them to feel safe and sound and loved and nurtured,” Webber said. “No matter what’s going on outside, they can come in this classroom and feel like this is their happy place just like it is mine.”

Webber attributed this attitude to her high school English teacher, the late Kenneth Hathaway.

“(Hathaway) made us all feel loved and respected and like we were important,” Webber said. “He found the good in everything and everybody, and it’s a choice to do that.”

Because of Hathaway’s influence, Webber said she strives to allow children to express their creativity in her classroom.

“I don’t have every child conform to every rule, but let them be open and accept their creativity,” Webber said. “If they want a blue tree with a yellow trunk, that’s okay.”

The students Webber teaches appreciate the hard work she puts into her classes every day and are not excited to have a new teacher next year.

“(Webber) is nice and she lets us do fun work,” said Andy Keith, a kindergartener at Vidalia Lower Elementary. “(Leaving) is hard to think about. I’m going to miss everything.”

Anderson said he is not looking forward to trying to replace the kindergarten teacher who has touched so many lives.

“I’m going to pray someone just like her shows up,” Anderson said. “You can fill the spot, but the shoes are pretty big to fill.”