Teachers and Students are on a Mission to Surprise Ms. Tarter

Isabella Moreno

Hadley Rosengrant, Writer

Recently, beloved math teacher Teresa Tarter received an ovarian cancer stage 1A diagnosis. Doctors removed a large tumor (20 cm) from her pelvic region. Both the math department and Ms. Tarter’s students rallied to support Ms. Tarter’s passion project, the Baja Missions project.  In just a few weeks, they raised $4000 from selling both t-shirts and general donations from students, parents, and teachers. 235 t-shirts were sold and almost $1000 in general donations were earned.

It’s tough to surprise Ms. Tarter; she knew that her students were going to surprise her with a check to go towards the Baja Missions Education Fund in her honor, but she never expected such a generous donation. Ms. Tarter joked, “I’m not excited about my mug displayed on t-shirts everywhere, but I am super thrilled about the cause it supports.

Principal Sylvia Lambert shared insight into this endeavor. “When news of Ms. Tarter’s health concerns spread throughout our school, students decided to design a t-shirt to support their beloved teacher. Unbeknownst to the students at that time, the teachers in the math department were also designing a t-shirt. Then, the efforts of students and teachers were joined together for a streamlined project that would be most beneficial.”

Students Andrew Goodwin, Baylor Paschal, Justin Alcantara, and Rohan Sen led the project.

Andrew Goodwin described their rationale. “Ms. Tarter is the kind of teacher that cares and wants us to succeed. Ms. Tarter will come around and make sure we all personally know what is going on and how to do the material. She knows how to make the class fun without it being distracting.” These students helped get the t-shirt designed, advertised, sold, ordered, and distributed. Justin Alcantara helped set up a bank account specifically for this fundraiser.

Alcantara stated, “I tried to do anything I could in order to help, whether that be advertising the T-shirts or passing them out. However, I did have one main job and that was keeping track of all the money and everyone who bought a T-shirt […] You can tell [the Baja Mission Trip] is important to Ms. Tarter just through the way she talks about. She has a true passion for helping others and is proud to share her experiences with us.”

They decided on earmarking the donated funds for the Baja Missions project. Rohan Sen said, “When she talks about the Baja Missions, you can see her light up and get happy, which really showed me how much she loves it.” 

The math department helped students organize themselves and publicize the fundraiser. Teachers explained, “Ms. Tarter is the math department head, and she is our comic relief. The thought of her leaving BJHS was/is scary.”

Ms. Tarter shared her passion for the Baja Missions project by designing Patriot Paths that enabled students to help with mission crafts for use during the Vacation Bible School program in Baja. Ms. Tarter explained, “I have been traveling to Baja, San Quintin, Mexico every summer for the past 17 years. The people there are special. They don’t have many material blessings, but they are some of the happiest people on earth. I have watched some pretty wild, rowdy kids grow into mature, young adults.”

Ms. Tarter shared, “This [cancer] experience has definitely taught me not to worry about things I can’t control. I remained pretty calm throughout this whole process and left it in God’s hands. I also have seen the power of prayer. I had many, many people praying for me, including the churches in the Baja… Also, I got a chance to reconnect with many people with whom I had lost touch. I got the rare chance to experience just how much I meant to other people. I have also had time to reevaluate my priorities.”

The bank account “Teresa Tarter Baja Missions” is still open and will remain open until the end of the semester. Anyone that did not get to purchase a t-shirt but would like to contribute may make a donation at any Redstone Federal Credit Union.

Top to Bottom: Children in Baja in 2006 and later in 2018 – photos courtesy of Teresa Tarter