“Go get help.” Those were the last words Tracy Hodges said before slipping out of her chair and falling unconscious in front of 12 terrified first-grade students.
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Tracy has been teaching at Cedar Hill Elementary in Ardmore, Alabama for 28 years, but what happened on that January morning was unlike anything she’d ever experienced before, inside the classroom or out.
The class had just finished an activity that involved dancing around the room, but when they sat down to collect themselves, they noticed their teacher was shaking and seemed unsteady.
“Mrs. Hodges was shaking and we thought she was just joking,” said 6-year-old student Dalton Widener. “Then she fell out of the chair and hit her head.”
Tracy remembers her vision getting so blurry that she couldn’t even see the children closest to her.
“It was scary for me because I knew that they were going to have to see something probably that they didn’t need to,” she recalled. “But I didn’t know any other way because I couldn’t find my way out the door.”
As she collapsed, she asked the students to help – so they did.
A few students stayed by Tracy’s side. The rest broke into two groups. One group ran to a neighboring classroom to get the teacher’s help, and the others ran to get the school nurse. Librarian Heather Snyder saw the children running in the halls and quickly rounded them up and brought them to a safe area.
“I just grabbed them and didn’t have a clue what was going on, but grabbed them and kind of comforted them and just tried to keep them calm until we could figure out what was going on,” said Heather.
Tracy was taken to the hospital, where they discovered she had suffered a seizure due to undiagnosed COVID-19. She hadn’t even felt sick, but several of her students were out with the virus at the time. After quarantining, she was cleared to return to school so she could put her students’ minds at rest and assure them she is okay.
Her biggest regret was that the students had to witness something so scary, but the community found a way to turn the event into a celebration, of sorts. All of Tracy’s students were honored with a school-wide assembly where they received certificates and medals for their heroism!
The sheriff, district attorney, police chief, and fire rescue team were on hand to thank the students for acting so bravely when their teacher needed their help. They all got “Hodges’ Heroes” t-shirts, and Tracy is convinced her students saved her life that day.
“I can’t imagine how they felt at seven years old, having to face that,” Tracy said. “But if I was at home, I probably would have been by myself because my family was at work and at school. So I was at the right place at the right time because they took care of me.”
The students are so proud of their new hero status! We’re so glad this story has a happy ending. Great job, kids!
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