Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At Valrico school, a Veterans Day tribute for beloved teacher

James Pope’s sister Deana Tuzzolino, left, helps Pope’s 1-year-old son Jackson place his flag during a Veterans Day tribute at Mulrennan Middle School that honored Pope, who died last month. At right, Pope’s wife helps son Jayden, 3, with his flag.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

James Pope’s sister Deana Tuzzolino, left, helps Pope’s 1-year-old son Jackson place his flag during a Veterans Day tribute at Mulrennan Middle School that honored Pope, who died last month. At right, Pope’s wife helps son Jayden, 3, with his flag.

VALRICO

The hundreds of middle school students were quiet as they stuck their little American flags into the ground.

Respectful, the way Mr. Pope taught them.

Veterans Day was a calling for the eighth-grade social studies teacher. Since 2007, James Pope led Mulrennan Middle School in a ceremony that culminated in students forming a living flag — sixth-graders wore white, seventh-graders red, and eighth-graders blue. When Pope, 33, died in a car accident last month, school administrators chose the school's Veterans Day ceremony to honor him.

"Guys, today is a solemn occasion as well as a celebration," principal Tim Ducker told the students Wednesday.

The student chorus sang Tell My Father and the national anthem. The band played a medley of patriotic tunes. Pope's family — including his widow, Jaquie, and two young boys, 3-year-old Jayden and 1-year-old Jackson — sat in the front row.

"He would truly be honored," Jaquie Pope said of her late husband. "This was where his heart was."

Teachers and administrators asked students to remember men and women in uniform on Nov. 11, but also the man who taught them about the day's importance. Pope taught at Mulrennan for six years before taking a promotion at Greco Middle School in Tampa this fall.

"James Wesley Pope dedicated his life and career to things that make this country great," said Jon Watson, head of the social studies department. "This ceremony is a testament to the patriotism he planted."

On that cue, students gathered on the school's front lawn made a "flag garden" in the spot where Pope directed last year's grand event.

"He was trying to get us to understand what it was all about," said seventh-grader Nichole McChord. "He was telling us how we shouldn't be laughing or talking, how we should be proud to be Americans."

The students gingerly pushed miniature flags into the ground. Some planted four or five before returning to where their teachers were standing around the display.

They bought the flags for $1 each in the days before the ceremony, with the nearly $600 in proceeds funding a scholarship for Pope's sons.

It grew silent as little Jayden and Jackson made their way to the garden. Their mother knelt down with them, helping them push the flags past the thick grass.

As they turned to leave, Jackson stumbled and fell, leaving one of the hundreds of flags leaning a bit.

His mother scooped him up, and his brother reached down and pulled the tiny flag upright.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or kwilmath@sptimes.com.

At Valrico school, a Veterans Day tribute for beloved teacher 11/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 11:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Philippines forces make gains in city under siege by ISIS-linked militants

    MARAWI, Philippines — Philippine forces say they now control most of a southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago.

  2. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  3. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  4. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  5. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile

    World

    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.