Memorial dedicated to legacy of Early teacher Keith Taylor
EARLY — About 100 community members turned out at Early Elementary School late Tuesday afternoon for a memorial dedication to Keith Taylor, who cemented a legacy as a beloved teacher, co-worker, scientist and friend to the community before his death in 2020.
The memorial consists of a replica of a telescope mounted on a tripod, welded by Josh Daignault of Early, who donated his labor and materials. The memorial was the idea of students in the Early High School Community Problem Solvers program, who wanted to honor Taylor after his death from cancer at age 65.
The telescope is mounted on a concrete base, where a plaque proclaims: “Keith Taylor taught us to reach for the stars.” The plaque contains a quote from Albert Einstein and a reference to 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 from the Bible.
Members of Taylor’s family sat in rows of chairs near the telescope, and a large group of Taylor’s friends, former students and co-workers, along with officials with the Early school district and City of Brownwood, stood near the front of the school.
Taylor, who loved astronomy, was known to host viewing parties at his home so students could view the heavens through his telescope.
The problem-solving students also presented the Taylor family with a check for $1,337 made out to the James Keith Taylor Scholarship. The funds for the scholarship had been left over from students’ fundraising efforts to pay for the memorial.
Diann Biddle, the problem-solving group’s coach, said the memorial telescope is “absolutely beautiful and fits (Taylor) to a 'T.'”
Taylor taught fourth grade at Early Elementary School before retiring in 2016. In addition to his passion for science, Taylor — described as an engaging man with a sense of humor — was known for other activities including coaching robotics, driving a school bus and announcing the halftime shows at football games.
After his retirement, Taylor continued his involvement with the community and school district.
As the dedication began, several of the students from the problem-solving group spoke, including Aaron Calloway, who said the students wanted to “do something to commemorate him and just carry on his legacy. We were able to create this memorial to symbolize what he was all about and carry on his legacy for generations to come,” Calloway said.
Calloway offered a “huge thank you” to Daignault for “making our vision come to life by welding this memorial for us.”
Student Sidney Becktold read a proclamation signed by Early Mayor Bob Mangrum declaring May 3-7 as Teacher Appreciation Week in honor of Taylor, and May 4 as Keith Taylor Day in the city.
The proclamation noted that after Taylor’s death on June 20, 2020, he could not receive a “proper sendoff from the community” due to COVID restrictions.
Former Early Elementary principal Sharon Watson delivered a tribute that was sometimes humorous and at other times emotional.
“So many stories I could share about Mr. Taylor,” Watson said. “Mr. Taylor was a real treasure to Early Elementary. For 30 years of his teaching career, he served this campus as principal, science teacher, bus driver, robotics coach and was one of every student's favorite teachers.
“He participated in high school musicals, usually stealing the show, and he had a great talent for singing and acting. He had a great sense of humor and was a very fun man to work with. After he retired in 2016, he would not leave. We’re so thankful and so glad that he didn’t.”
After Taylor’s retirement, he worked as a substitute teacher, continued as a robotics coach and continued to drive the high school band bus and announce their performance programs, Watson said.
Taylor also taught a few days a week at Cross Classical Academy and started a robotics program there as well, Watson said.
Some of Taylor’s favorite times of the year were Sept. 19 — International Talk Like a Pirate Day — when Taylor would come to school dressed and talking like a pirate, Watson said.
“His belief as a teacher was that students learned best by doing, by being actively involved," Watson said. "You could see his students working in the hallways, measuring things, building models, analyzing and predicting outcomes but also (learning) to collaborate and work together. He wasn’t just a textbook teacher but he taught through activities and hands-on experiences."
Watson went on to describe Taylor as “a very special teacher, co-worker and friend to Early Elementary. He had a huge presence. He is loved, and he is missed.”
In addition to thanking Daignault, the Early High School Community Problem Solvers thanked the Early ISD and school board, the Taylor family, ASAP Creative Arts, the Higginbotham Brothers and several groups of donors.