Two families recently enjoyed an all-expenses paid trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., because a student remembered her teacher from 20 years ago.
When Tish Neilson of Knoxville heard about the theme park’s contest, she wrote a letter titled “More Than a Teacher,” about her former teacher in Knoxville, Rick Bise. The Bise family lives in the Hopewell area on their farm where they raise miniature horses.
Mrs. Bise said they were more than surprised to receive a phone call telling them they were the recipients of one-week trip to Walt Disney World because a former student of Rick’s had submitted a letter telling about the Bises’ interest in her while she was in his class.
Tish’s letter read: “Since the time I was 2, my mom was a single mom with three kids and frequent health issues and she struggled to make ends meet. She did an amazing job, but by the time I was in high School, my mom, older brother and I lived in a small one-bedroom apartment with no car.”
She said she had trouble finding a way to school because she was out of the school zone and not on the bus route. She played volleyball and basketball and, one morning, she had to call her teacher/coach to tell him she would miss the game that afternoon because she didn’t have a way to get to school.
“I will never forget that phone call,” she said. “I was embarrassed and felt so helpless,” but, she added that Mr. Bise drove out of his way every day to give her a ride to and from school.
Since she didn’t have a way of earning money, the Bises hired Tish as a babysitter for Lindsey.
“He encouraged me as a coach and as a teacher to never give up on myself and he was always there for me,” she said. Because of the Bises, she was able to finish high school and earn a full scholarship to play volleyball in college. “I know I would never have been able to accomplish that without his support and encouragement,” Neilson said. “He and his family did more for me than I could ever explain in only 500 words — They changed my life.”
She continued, saying, “That was over 20 years ago, but I can still count on him to be there when I need him.” She said recently, a 10-year-old student at her son’s school was diagnosed with leukemia and she needed help spreading the word about finding a bone marrow donor for her, and it only took one phone call for him to go above and beyond what even she expected.
Rick, who was a teacher at Fulton High School in Knoxville, and his wife, Debbie, along with their daughter, Lindsey, moved to Hopewell in 1993. Debbie became a guidance counselor at Black Fox Elementary School, then went to serve as assistant principal at McMinn County High School before retiring.
Mr. Bise still teaches in Knoxville and serves as principal at Lincoln Park Trade School. Their daughter — now Dr. Lindsey Bise — attended Black Fox and went on to Cleveland State Community College and Samford University with a Ruritan Scholarship. She is employed as a pharmacist at BI-LO.
Debbie remembered the babysitting times and the time when Tish was interviewing for college entrance. “We would take her shopping at Goody’s for clothes and take her for interviews,” she said. “It is really an honor and I was so impressed with her.”
“Mr. Bise is a special person that created many special memories for me that I will always cherish and be thankful for,” Tish concluded in her letter.