Return to Headlines

Former Oak Ridge Student Returns 20 Years Later to Say 'Thank You"

Oak Ridge third-grade teacher Michelle Kjeldsen admits she got a little sappy recently while taking a walk down memory lane. 

It all started with a call from school secretary Trish Nelson to come down to the office. 

“The message was that someone was here dropping stuff off and I should stop in,” Kjeldsen remembered. “There were several people in the office at the time and they all witnessed this young lady who was sharing her memories at Oak Ridge, the impact we all made on her, her life endeavors thus far, and how grateful she is! I was in awe, almost in tears.

“The face looked kind of familiar but it had, afterall, been 20 years since I had last seen her,” she said.  “But I knew it was a former student.” 

The young woman - now in her mid-20s - was Brittney Swicionis and she was visiting from Missouri where she now resides. She was helping care for her mom, Deanna, who is recovering from recent surgery.

Brittney came bearing gifts - well, kind of. 

She brought in cases of pop and boxes of snacks to put in the teachers’ lounge as a thank you for the impact they had on her as a student at both Dorn and Oak Ridge schools. But she also brought in a personalized note she penned to teachers for the impact they had on her life on and after September 11, 2001. 

Kjeldsen said she first met Brittney when the young girl was in kindergarten and Kjeldsen was filling in for a leave of absence at Dorn. 

Fast forward two years and Kjeldsen was a second-grade teacher now at Oak Ridge and Brittney was in her class again. “She was a sweet girl, a great student, and from a very supportive family,” she said.  

Kjeldsen said she shared this story with people in the school office because “I know this profession isn't always easy, but we come to work everyday with smiles on our faces and give our 110% because when our students walk in the building, we are their constant. We are here for our kids! I will always say I'm just doing my job or this is what teachers do, but obviously our efforts don't go unnoticed and what a kind gesture for her to think of all of us and bring in snacks and treats to brighten our day. A bucket filler for sure! 

“I plan on paying it forward somehow because (Brittney) showed so much kindness, I feel the need to keep it going!” Kjeldsen said. 

Below is Brittney's letter:

"To the staff at Oak Ridge:

Some may remember me, some don’t know me and some may have been classmates of mine 20 years ago. I was a second-grade student in Room 2B when 9/11 happened. I often think about that time, that day and that great impact the school and the district had on me.  I was greatly impacted by the kind, supportive and wonderful educators in that school. I want each of you to know that you are making a difference every day whether it is on Zoom, through a mask or in-person. It may not seem like it, but you are all world-changers. I wish I had a million dollars for each of you but I am not there yet, so hopefully stocking your lounge brightens your day. Keep changing the world one student at a time!"


 Brittney 1

Britany 2