Not many people have the courage and devotion to chase their dreams and realize their career or life goals, but Cindy Grindstaff did.
That love and passion which she brought to her Burke County Public Schools classrooms since 2002 was reciprocated by those who knew her best on Thursday night, as families of students past and present joined with her family at a drive-thru celebration of her life held at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church.
Grindstaff, a fifth grade teacher at W.A. Young Elementary School, died of a heart attack on Sept. 2.
Grindstaff’s sister, Tracy Poole told The News Herald that seeing such an outpouring of love from coworkers, families of former students and community members “meant everything” to her.
“Teaching was her life,” she said. “She’s thought about being a teacher since she was a child. All she ever wanted to do was to help kids learn. She dedicated her life to it.”
Poole said the family held a separate visitation on Sept. 5, where a number of current and former students joined with family, friends and coworkers at a socially distanced memorial.
On Thursday, W.A. Young teachers, current and former, lined both sides of the drive-thru and held a banner that read, “Ms. Grindstaff loved you fiercely. Now … go work, play and live fiercely,” as families of students drove by to offer their support.
In a show of solidarity, the teachers were all clad in their “Wildcats Strong” T-shirts, a project which Cindy helped spearhead, according to school principal Jeannie Jandrew.
“Cindy was a planner,” Jandrew said. “She liked that cohesiveness (among staff members.) So, we wore these (T-shirts) to the visitation. We’re wearing them again today for her, because that is something that is so her.”
Jandrew said staff encouraged current and former students to write cards sharing their favorite memories and quotes of Grindstaff, or to simply wish her goodbye.
Students and families brought cards, posters, flowers, pictures and stuffed animals throughout the night, which later were presented to the family.
Toward the end of the gathering, those in attendance met on the church steps to light candles in memory of Grindstaff. Shortly after, the crowd met in a circle as a church official said a prayer.
Officials with Gibbs Chapel Wesleyan Church and Missionary Ridge Baptist Church joined those with Pleasant Ridge in directing traffic and providing Chick-fil-A for the family and coworkers.
“She was a big kid,” Poole said. “She never really grew up either. She was always really energetic and related well to them, because they were bouncing and she was bouncing. So, it worked together.
“She loved every student she ever had. She will miss them.”
Johnny Casey is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-432-8907.
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