Rhonda Barnes and Jonathan Barrows at White Rock Elementary

The end of the school year is always bittersweet for Rhonda Barnes. The White Rock Elementary teacher falls in love with her new Kindergarten charges every fall, and every spring she has to send them out into the big, wide world. One thing makes May a little sweeter, though, for Barnes. She’s come to count on a last-day-of-school visit from a student she taught her first full year at WRE. By the time he hit junior high, Jonathan Barrows was bringing her flowers. This year, his graduation year, he delivered a big bouquet.

“Oh, he’s such a sweetheart,” gushes Barnes. “He touches my heart. I remember when he had braces and his older sister Emily would drive him to see me. I can’t believe he’s headed off to college.”

“She was always there for me,” says Barrows, who will study at the University of Arkansas beginning in August and gushes praise right back at Barnes. “She was thoughtful and kind, and she really started my school career off right. She’s very passionate and caring – she’s almost a second mother to me. She wants to know what’s going on in my life and how she can help. I see her walking in the neighborhood, and she came to all my football games to support me.”

Barrows played wide receiver for the Wildcat football team, and he’s already registered with Razorback coaches, letting them know he’s determined to make their team as a walk on in the spring. No matter what his future holds, he says he’s sure Mrs. Barnes will be an enthusiastic supporter.

“I’m sure she’s that way with all her other students,” says Barrows. “That’s just the way she is. But we have a special relationship.”

Barnes says seeing the impact early teachers can have encourages her to stay in the game, even though she’s earned the right to retire.

“Kindergarten is where we instill their love for school, and I feel lucky to be laying that foundation. I love being with the kids when they are so fun.”

Barrows isn’t the only student to return and express gratitude. Parents and older students often drop in during open house to say hello, and Barnes covets the thank you notes she’s received over the years. She’s quick, too, to point out that LHHS 2019 valedictorian Luke Moran was one of hers.

“My students make me so proud,” says Barnes. “I can’t wait to see what God has planned for them.”

Jonathan Barrows playing football for LHHS