MANATEE -- The family of Linda Van Metre realized what kind of teacher she was after her death, witnessing several students reach out and speak about the teacher who had impacted their lives.
"There were people that attended her memorial service that had her as a teacher 15 years ago," said Jim Francis, Van Metre's brother. "One former student spoke at her memorial and the last time he saw her was a decade ago."
Van Metre worked as an English literature and journalism teacher at Manatee High School for 22 years, beginning her tenure in 1990. She taught several thousand students, many of whom remember her as their "kick-butt grammar guru."
Van Metre planned to retire in 2012 after the school year, but died Jan. 29, 2012, after having a stroke and several complications. Having no biological children of her own, she dedicated her time and attention to her students and constantly stressed the importance of education, believing it to be "the key" to success.
Taking the extra step with her students made Van Metre a teacher many would remember forever. She demanded excellence and hard work in the classroom as well as respect for herself and for all students.
"She never talked about her day-to-day job whenever we talked on the phone," said Francis. "But we saw how many people attended her service and we knew we had to start something to continue her legacy."
What started out as an idea became the Linda Van Metre Personal Achievement Award, a scholarship offered to Manatee High School students who demonstrate a strong desire to "improve themselves scholastically and personally."
Out of eight applicants, four received a $500 scholarship. Van Metre believed there would always be a certain number of students who would push to succeed, but knew not all students would be so dedicated.
"She knew that there were students who just needed a bit of encouragement and support or they'd fall through the cracks," said Francis. "It was something that frustrated her, that there weren't many teachers who'd reach out to those kids, so she always strived to get through to them, get them excited about reading about learning.
"In her honor, we thought she'd like the idea of continuing to help students. If we can continue to keep building this momentum for the scholarship, it would help those students who really need it, as well as the students who just need support or encouragement."