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Students, Teachers Reflect on the Life of Oxford Teacher Sherry Buford

By Aly Card
Hottytoddy.com intern

On Feb. 15, 2018, one man’s decision to drive while intoxicated left a community shaken by the death of a beloved teacher, sister, aunt, and friend. Sherry Diane Buford left a void in the Oxford and Lafayette communities that others know will never be replaced. However, the people who knew her best are ensuring her memory will last forever.

Sherry Diane Buford. Photo via the Oxford School District.

Buford’s larger-than-life personality and passion for her students were two of the many characteristics that her loved ones miss. Whether students had Buford as a teacher or only saw her in passing, they could not help but fall in love with her smile, kindness, and wit. Buford had a desire for every child who walked through her door to learn. Whether that be mathematics or life lessons, she had a passion for making students want to be better people.

Though Buford never had children of her own, every student she had in her classroom became her child forever. Above all else, Buford believed in the capability of each one of her students and was a constant motivator. In some cases, she was the only motivator some students had.

Oxford Intermediate School teacher Joanne Bagley McGehee experienced first-hand the love Buford had for her students. McGehee taught with Buford for 10 years and had a relationship more like that of a sister than a colleague.

“She loved big, she loved fiercely, she loved everybody. She didn’t care who you were or who your parents were,” McGehee said. “She had a passion for making sure every child knew they were loved and I think when you talk to any child and they say, ‘Oh I loved Ms. Buford, she was so funny.’ But ultimately they will say, ‘She believed in me and she loved me.'”

Ansley Mcdaniel, a rising junior at Oxford High School, reflects back on her time in sixth grade with Buford.

“Sometimes you would have teachers that were having a bad day and they would be mean, and then you would go in Ms. Buford’s class and she would be perfectly happy and it would be encouraging,” Mcdaniel said. “She would be so loud and so happy and I’m a lot like that too, so it made me feel really comfortable around her because she was comfortable with being completely herself around us.”

Buford had an instinct for knowing what kind of teacher each student needed. Whether that be joking or stern she knew what would work the best. Though some of Buford’s disciplining styles were out of the ordinary, they all came from a place of wanting her students to succeed and be better people. Her tough love is what pushed her students to be the best they could be.

“Whenever someone would sleep in her class, she would just throw an EXPO marker at them. It was always so funny. She never made them feel like they were in trouble, but that was her way of getting their attention. All the other teachers would say, ‘Oh there goes Ms. Buford throwing her markers,’” Mcdaniel said.

Buford was a sixth-grade math teacher. Photo courtesy of the Oxford School District.

Buford’s tough love came out in the classroom. She wanted each of her students to try their hardest.

“What I loved about her was she could reprimand somebody and then praise them in the same breath and they knew no matter what—whether she was fussing and telling them something they did wrong and correcting their behavior—they knew it came from a good place because she only wanted what was best for them,” McGehee said.

Though Buford is missed dearly by many, they often find comfort in knowing she is in a better place. To know Buford was to know the love she had for the Lord. God’s love radiated through her for all to see. That love filled the halls of Oxford Intermediate School and each of the thousands of people’s hearts she touched.

During McGehee’s second year of teaching, her father passed away unexpectedly. A friend from school drove her to the hospital and called the school to inform them about what had happened. Within 20 minutes, Buford and fellow teachers Whitney Drewrey and Curt Minton walked into the hospital. Buford’s first words when she entered the hospital were, “Can we go to the chapel to pray?” This is one of McGehee’s fondest memories of Buford, she said.

As a tribute to Buford, the parking spot she used each day has been painted purple, her favorite color, and is awarded to one teacher to use for the month. Photo courtesy of Joanne Bagley McGehee.

“You can’t think of Sherry Buford without knowing her faith and knowing how strong her faith was and how she wasn’t shy about talking about it or sharing it and. She lived it and was an example for so many. Any big celebration, any tragedy, any worry, that was her response was to huddle up and pray, and that’s what we did,” McGehee said.

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