Hundreds gathered in the gym at Robinson Elementary School Thursday to remember and to honor a man who dedicated his life to educating and mentoring generations of Dawson County's children.
Charles Finley was a very special man who truly lived up to the philosophy that he wrote on a Teacher of the Year application in 1988 - 'to do as much as I can for as many as I can for a long as I can,' said Dawson County School Superintendent, Keith Porter, who had Finely as his third grade teacher.
Finley was well remembered for living that philosophy and he shared it with thousands of students over his 41-year teaching career in Dawson County.
On Apr. 25, Robinson Elementary School dedicated its media center to him.
He brought so much life to that media center, said Nikki Gilleland, a longtime friend, former teacher and school superintendent in Dawson County. He was so curious and had so many hobbies and things he was interested in, and he wanted to show the kids. He would bring things into them all the time.
For RES Principal, Roxanne Fausett, who also had Finley as a third grade teacher, his impact was long-term.
I started thinking about all the different parts he played in my life and how he influenced me. Ever since I was nine-years-old, I've known Charles," said Fausett. He's been a part of my life. I was his third grade reading student. I thought how strange it is that life takes you down many different roads. And, the student that he taught, turns around and becomes his administrator. He was my teacher and later became my fellow educator.
A plaque above the media center's door reads: Charles B. Finley Media Center Dedicated in honor and recognition of his service to Robinson Elementary School.
Charles will forever be in my heart and will forever be in this school, said Fausett during the dedication ceremony at the center. "This school is full of memories of him. And every single one of you has a memory of him. So cling to those memories and keep them in your heart, and share them with everyone, so his legacy will continue to always live.
As Finley's closest friends came to the podium, each sharing their own special stories and memories of him, the sea of faces in the crowd showed mixed emotions some were glowing with smiles while others were misty-eyed but all clearly indicated that they were personally inspired by him.
It was a bittersweet night for all of us because he is so greatly missed, added Porter. But the dedication ceremony gave us a chance to remember the many, many good times that we had with Mr. Finley, and there was a measure of comfort in knowing that students, parents, and teachers will remember his contributions through the dedication of the media center forever.
In addition to naming the media center after Finley, several staff members formed a committee and compiled a scrapbook full of photos and memories to present to Finley's wife and son, Kathy and Ben Finley. We started looking for pictures, and we would sit around the table looking at those pictures, and we would laugh and everyone would have a story to tell. And, sometimes we would cry. But just sitting around that table sharing the memories blessed all of our hearts, said Fausett.
The scrapbook was on display during the dedication ceremony and later was presented to Finley's family as a keepsake.
RES Assistant Principal, Kim Bennett, said there will soon be a special section in the center where children can go to read.
Mr. Finley used an old bathtub for kids to read in, she said. We are in the process of locating it with the help of his son, Ben. When we find it, there will be a special place set aside for it in the media center.
Finley's wife said the dedication was a tremendous honor for her husband. I know he would have been very pleased and humbled and we are as well, she said. He dedicated his life to teaching, and he loved Robinson, its staff, and the children. I think they all knew he loved them. And they loved him, too. I just want to thank Mr. Porter, the Board of Education and the school for this wonderful dedication.
Porter carries on the legacy.
Mr. Finley truly felt a calling to make sure that others who made outstanding contributions were appropriately remembered, he said. Thursday night was our chance to follow the example that he set by dedicating Robinson Elementary Schools media center in his memory.