Special letters inspire Roanoke students during SOL testing

Mrs. Duffey wrote letters to former students before SOL Tests. (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - A Roanoke elementary school teacher found a special way to inspire students to do well on the SOL tests, even though the students aren't in her class anymore.

"You are smart, you are enough and you are a hard worker," reads Emily Ballard from a letter sent to her this year as a 5th grader at Fairview Elementary School.

"I have seen how much you have improved in reading and math," says the 2015 letter to students.

"I came across this idea and thought it would be a great way to let these kids know how special they are and how proud I am of them and so I sent the letters out," said Ashley Duffey, a 4th grade teacher at Fairview.

"You can't describe it. It's really good because she encourages you, she doesn't put you down," said Ballard.

Mrs. Duffey wrote a letter to her students in 2015 before SOL testing.

"Testing is important and it's going to give us some information but I also wanted them to know that they're smart, they're talented, they're unique and they're special in so many ways," said Duffey.

"You are smart! You are enough! You are a hard worker!" says the 2016 letter to students.

An important message with special significance for Emily who struggled taking tests in 4th grade.

"A few times she pulled me out of the classroom and she helped me, she gave me a fake test to help me try to do better on the real tests," said Emily.

With the help, Emily became an A-B student. Mrs. Duffey continued the letter tradition this year surprising her former students and their parents with kind, uplifting words.

I wrote you a letter last year explaining how much more you are than a test score. Do you remember what was in the letter? I wrote that the SOL Tests do not assess what makes each of you special and unique! On Monday, you will begin taking your 5th grade SOL Tests. I will remind you again. The scores you will get from these tests will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything. There are many ways of being smart. You are smart! You are enough! You are a hard worker! Your hellos, hugs and visits have made my day!"

"The fourth grade letter alone made me cry because I was like 'how special is this'. To know the next year that the same teacher also reached out to those same students that shows continued love and support," said Tonya Ballard, Emily's mother.

"Just a little positivity goes a long way and I think it's good for the teachers and for the kids too," said Duffey.

One teacher, leaving a lasting impression for a lifetime.