Noble Pinto, a fifth grader at Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School, pointed his pinky finger in the air.
He smiled as he made a pinky promise.
“I promise to get out and play,” Pinto said.
Pinto, along with dozens of other McNeal Elementary students, made the promise to Katy McKibben, the sister of McNeal’s physical education teacher Justin Darr, 39, who died in January.
McNeal Elementary School hosted a dedication March 30 for Justin Darr, who taught at the school for 15 years. In honor of the physical education teacher’s saying, “Get out and play,” students and staff members played basketball, kickball, disc golf and other sports as well as raced on scooters, played on the playground and more.
“My hope was that this would give the staff, students and their families, and his family, closure and just good memories,” said Sheila Waid, the principal at McNeal Elementary. “Coach Darr would want us all to go forward. He would want us to get out and play.”
The school also unveiled two memorials in memory of Justin Darr. In tribute to his love for disc golf, the school put frisbees and a Sarasota Sky Pilots shirt along with his photo on the wall next to the doors leading to the physical education area outdoors. A family also donated disc golf baskets. The other memorial is a plaque above an outside water fountain because Justin Darr always reminded his students to stay hydrated.
The dedication was a time for students, families, teachers, staff and Justin Darr’s family to share their memories with him and how he impacted the school community.
“If you ask students and colleagues about Coach Darr, you will hear about his passion for sports, physical activity and fun, but more importantly, for forming relationships with children,” Waid said. “He had an ability to make genuine connections with his students, to see their perspective and to be sensitive to the emotional needs of all students. The students loved going to P.E. because Coach Darr was able to inspire a love of sports in his students as well as a welcoming environment in which every student felt respected and valued while they were in his class.”
Noble Pinto spent every morning of the first quarter of the school year standing by a gate outside McNeal…
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