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Sandy Varvel has always cared about Franklin's kids. She's been with the school district for a decade-and-a-half, a teacher for the last two years, and thanks to Sam's Club's national program, the San Antonio native is the Brazos Valley's teacher of the year.
"Coming from a big town to a small town is a refreshing, different attitude," she said. "At first, you think, 'Oh my goodness, how could I live in this small town.' And then you realize you can never live anywhere else because they care about you and they care about your kids."
Tyler Varvel's struggles were Franklin's. Sandy's son died in February after a battling a staph infection. His loss left the small town's high school not knowing what to do or how to feel. But Sandy knew. Even in grief, she knew she could and should help the community that had rallied around her family.
"I could sit at home and be sad, or I could come here where I feel like the kids needed me" Varvel said. "They were sad, too. And they got me through. It was good for me to be here for them. They were good to me. It was just nice to receive a hug from a kid."
"I feel that Sandy has a gift," said fellow Franklin High teacher Juanice Knight. "I believe she's been given a gift by God to be encouraging and helpful and compassionate. There's nobody with a bigger heart than Sandy."
"I can't even begin to describe to you what her contribution has been," said Franklin High principal Charles Frieda. "There's been so many things that she has done and continues to do. She truly cares about our students and this school."
And while any of the kids that come to her business class would say Ms. Varvel is deserving of this honor, it should be noted that the student who nominated her never took a class with her.
"In the hall, she walks by and says hi, smiles at you on a bad day and makes your day better," said William Miller, the nominating student. "She's a great woman, in school and out of school."
When asked if she teaches for a different reason now, Varvel said, "No, I teach because I love the kids. I teach because it's fun for me. That's why I teach."
Ms. Varvel received a gift card from Sam's along with the award, and Franklin High School received a $1,000 donation from the store in her honor.