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Maryville City Schools Adding employee graduate with the Class of 2024

Maryville City Schools Adding employee graduate with the Class of 2024

Maryville City Schools Adding employee graduate with the Class of 2024

The Daily Times

Amy Beth Miller



Wednesday morning, May 8, John Thacker was one of the Maryville City Schools maintenance workers setting up the stage for the high school graduation. Friday night he’ll join the Class of 2024 in receiving diplomas on that stage.

Thacker, who is retiring next month after 24 years of service with MCS, has been working since January 2023 to earn his high school equivalency diploma.

When he asked Maryville High School Assistant Principal Brett Coulter for advice on where to go to complete the diploma, they talked then about the possibility of Thacker crossing the stage at graduation.

“Anybody in education is going to be excited about someone continuing their path,” Coulter told The Daily Times this week.

The plan is for Thacker to sit with faculty members behind the seniors, and when students walk to the stage for their diplomas he will join the line.

“We want him to get as authentic a feel as he can,” Coulter said.

Dropping out

Thacker grew up in Lee County, Kentucky, and dropped out of school as a 16-year-old at the beginning of 10th grade.

He said he couldn’t get along with a teacher who was the only one for a class he needed to graduate. He told the school, “I don’t got to do nothing,” he recalled in an interview with The Daily Times this week.

Thacker then entered a program for dropouts that allowed him to work for the schools four days a week and spend half a day working toward an equivalency diploma. But when the custodian at an elementary school suffered an injury that would have him off work for at least six months, Thacker stepped into the job and stopped his studies.

“I just moved on with my life,” he said.

After arriving in Blount County in the 1990s he attended one or two adult education classes but said he got busy and never went back.

He doesn’t need the diploma now, but Thacker explained, “One day I said, ‘I want to do this before I retire.’”

Starting again

First he took a pretest for the HiSET exam, which he would need to pass to earn a high school equivalency diploma in Tennessee. “When you’ve been out of school for so many years, it doesn’t look good,” he said.

With some subjects, such as social studies, he discovered he had learned a lot just through life. “Math was one of the hardest,” he said, “when you start throwing letters in with the numbers.”

One of his teachers in the adult education program was Doug Fox, a math teacher at William Blount High School, and Thacker received additional tutoring from Al North before the math exam.

His MCS workday starts at 7:30 a.m., and he also does side jobs, helps members of High Praises church and holds tent revivals. To earn the diploma, twice a week he also would attend classes from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on the Friendsville campus of Pellissippi State Community College.

Not alone

“There were times that I was ready to quit,” Thacker confessed, telling the instructors, “I’m wasting your time and mine.”

But he said everyone in the adult education program was caring and reassuring that he could succeed.

“We can help anybody pass this,” Margaret Muller, who helped Thacker prepare for the essay exam, told The Daily Times. “We have really patient teachers here in Blount County.”

Muller has worked in adult education since 2000 and is president of the board of directors for the Adult Education Foundation of Blount County. “I have seen pure miracles,” she said.

“He caught on real quickly,” Muller said of Thacker.

He needed to earn at least a score of 8 on five tests.

“I give God all the credit,” Thacker said.

His faith is evident with his common answer to the question of how he’s doing: “I’m blessed and highly favored.”

Thacker prayed driving to take tests and while taking the exams. During one drive he referred to his tent ministry and said, “I don’t need this to set up a tent and do your work.” Thacker is confident, however, “if I do my best, he’ll do the rest.”

During the math test, Thacker was certain he had skipped three questions, to which he planned to return, but the screen showed all 50 complete. “I dropped my head, and I went to praying,” he said. When the score popped up, he had more than he needed, a 12.

“I sat there and cried,” he said.

Reflecting on the 15 months he worked toward the diploma, Thacker said, “Was it easy, no, but it was a journey well worth it.”