Carmel students remember beloved teacher through acts of kindness

CARMEL, Ind. - Kindness can be found in many places. Sometimes it's found in the words of children written on stone.

At Smoky Row Elementary School, students have a lot to say.

Ahead of World Kindness Day, all 700 students took on a project of their own, a project they hope will not only encourage strangers, but also honor the legacy of a person who made a positive impact on their school.

Over the last couple of weeks, parents and faculty members spent time spray painting over 1400 rocks.

Students were given two of the rocks, and each one was used as a blank canvas to write words, messages or quotes of kindness.

"This one is the one that says you make me feel happy, and then this one that says I love you," says kindergartner Zoe Folk, proudly showing off her creations.

On Tuesday, the students will place one rock in a garden created along a shaded walkway in front of the school.

"We’re really proud as a school to be able to focus on leadership and those skills that take them really far in life. Kindness being one of them," says Principal Lyla Jay.

This garden however, will be more than just a lesson on kindness. It will also serve as a tribute to a teacher who exemplified it. That teacher's name is Dawn Matters.

"She had a heart of gold, and she would give herself in so many different ways around the school," says third grade teacher and Matters' friend, Tracie Greene.

In July, after a 2-year battle with breast cancer, Matters passed away.

Greene says their principal introduced them to the idea at the year's first staff meeting.

"Everyone of course was on board because I don’t know one person at our school that is not a big fan of Dawn Matters."

Matters began at Smoky Row as a third grade teacher. In her last few years she became an instructional coach, educating teachers on ways to perfect their craft. She spent time in every classroom and with nearly every student.

Now her teaching will continue through the words of children along a shaded walkway in front of Smoky Row.

For Greene, it's a moving tribute. "She was my dear friend. Knowing that I can go out there and there’s a little piece of Dawn right here sprinkled among our school grounds, it’s just special."

The second rock given to the students will be theirs to place throughout the community. They hope it brightens the day of someone who may find it.