Read between the lines

Story by Connor Powell, staff writer

To her, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing someone’s day brightened due to nothing more than a simple, kind gesture.

Brittni Huggins is the American Sign Language teacher, and has recently been writing messages of hope and encouragement on the desks in her classroom.

“I began writing the messages after what happened with Leonard and Zack,” Huggins said. “I just really felt like a lot of our kids come to me and expressed that they felt lost and unsure of what to do with what was going on.”

In the face of tragedy, Huggins refuses to focus on the negativity, and hopes to help the students see that they have a choice too.

“I’m a big believer in being positive and speaking respectfully to others and they will speak respectfully to you,” Huggins said. “I really feel like the way you approach people can affect the kind of day they have.”

While a note on the desk can seem small, Huggins believes the impact goes way beyond the words.

“I just wanted my kids to know that I was thinking about them,” Huggins said. “Like if no one else in their life or in their day had something positive to say, that there was something positive to think about.”

The students aren’t the only ones to be impacted by Huggins messages; the messages have resonated with older members of the community.

“The first week, one of my students took a picture and sent it to her mom,” Huggins said. “Her mom posted it on Facebook and it got over 100 shares.”

Even though several people have told her to take credit for the messages after they were posted to Facebook, Huggins has opted to remain unknown.

“I chose to remain anonymous about the fact it was me because that’s not what it’s about,” Huggins said. “I wanted the messages to be the focus. Not me.”

The response to the messages has been overwhelmingly supportive.

“The kids love them,” Huggins said. “They want to know what theirs is going to be for the next week, or did I know who was going to sit at a certain desk when I wrote the messages.”

While this project has had such an impact on others already, Huggins doesn’t want to see it end here.

“You’re never going to get a negative response from encouraging people,” Huggins said. “I would love to see more teachers speak encouragement directly to their children because I feel like we don’t take that time, and assume they get encouragement from home and from their friends. I feel like we need to take the time to speak directly to others in a positive manner.”