Rebecca Thacker, pictured here with her husband Joshua, was ‘a light’ to countless students at Marathon High School. CONTRIBUTED.

The Marathon High School community lost one of its finest on April 4 with the sudden and unexpected passing of English teacher Rebecca Thacker. Known as the school’s authority on all things Disney and described as “a mother” by many of her students, her impact on MHS reached far beyond the grades and lessons she imparted in the classroom.

“Mrs. Thacker has been an integral part of our staff for the past seven years, especially with the juniors and seniors who had her for English,” wrote MHS principal Wendy McPherson in an email to students and families. “Her impact on our school was widespread and I know her loss will be great. … We will miss her and want to recognize all that she meant to our MHS Dolphin community.”

Upon learning of the tragic news on the morning of April 5, the MHS baseball team faced a difficult decision with an away game against conference rival Palmer Trinity later in the day. When head coach Joey Gonzalez turned the choice to play or skip the game over to his team, the players’ decision was clear.

“We went forward with the game because the boys wanted to play in honor of her,” said Gonzalez. 

With a 2-1 win against their conference rivals, the team elected to dedicate the remainder of their season to Thacker’s memory. Three days later, in front of a packed house of nearly 300 attendees, the team again defeated Palmer Trinity at home – but not without a proper tribute to their beloved teacher first.

With “R.T.” spray painted in the grass behind home plate, the Dolphins individually added flowers to a memorial table dedicated to Thacker before gathering at the pitcher’s mound for a moment of silence. Addresses by McPherson, city councilman and assistant baseball coach Luis Gonzalez, and school board chair John Dick paid tribute to Thacker’s mark on MHS’ culture and community.

“In our years as coaches, it’s the biggest crowd we ever had at the field,” said Joey. “I know our boys’ emotions were running high. But being able to take those emotions and know that the game we were playing was first and foremost for Mrs. Thacker and secondly to put us in a position to be in first place in the conference going into the postseason was just awesome.”

In light of her passing, Keys Weekly checked in with just a few of the many students and faculty touched by Rebecca Thacker’s compassion and giving spirit. Here’s what they had to say:

“Last year I used to go to her class a lot. I was able to tell her anything that was going on in our friend group. She was an amazing teacher as well as a friend. The environment she created was solely positive, and we never felt judged. With her I was able to find who and what I wanted to be without care or worry.” 

– senior Sarah Kratzert

“I had Mrs. Thacker last year for an AP course, and she sure knew how to keep her students engaged and welcomed. While I never engaged with her on a personal level, I did know many students who would go to her just to talk. She was a light to many of the students here, and we sure will not be the same without her. We all love you, Mrs. Thacker.”

– senior Charles Vaughn

“My favorite thing about Mrs. Thacker is that she made me feel included and cared about me. She never left me or anyone else out. She will always be my best friend.” 

– senior Andee Richards

“Although Mrs. Thacker and I were not always on the same page because I tend to be a rebellious student, she was always sure to support me. She was one of the most helpful teachers when it came to helping students graduate. She did anything and everything to help her students pass, even when we didn’t always deserve her help.”

– senior Glenn Hewlett

“Some teachers have favorites, but Mrs. Thacker was fair and equal to all. She paid even more attention to you if you were falling behind. She made a difference in all of our lives, and certainly our grades.”

– senior Cameron Wert

“Mrs. Thacker was a very unique teacher. She connected with her students on a personal level. If there was something that you had an interest in, she probably shared it with you. If there was something going on in your personal life, she would be the one to help you because she would listen. She would talk about the new Marvel movies and shows that came out, and she’d tell us about her mom, her husband, how her break was and where they went. Mrs. Thacker was always the sweetest and very thoughtful. She did a lot of things to help us.” 

– senior Calla Jimenez

“Mrs. Thacker noticed when we were not okay, and that’s what we all appreciated about her the most. She dressed up for every Marathon High School occasion, and she always had a smile on her face. Mrs.Thacker put her students before herself, no matter the circumstance. She was the biggest Harry Potter and Disney fan and never failed to make it known. She was amazing, she was beautiful and she was so sweet. I know the students, staff and her family will always honor her memory.”

– senior Synthia Robles

“Mrs. Thacker was a very spirited teacher. Her classroom was not only a place of learning, but a place of comfort. She overcame several challenges in her life and was open about it, and in return her students became open with her. She was a resource within the school, someone we all loved and trusted.”

– senior Andrew Weaver

“She was the mom for these kids at school. So many of them desperately needed that consistency and support in their lives, and she literally bent over backwards for everybody around her. She opened up her classroom every day to a lunch group that would come to hang out and tell stories about life. It was just such a family-friendly atmosphere any time she was around, and that’s going to be the toughest thing to get used to.”

-MHS head baseball coach Joey Gonzalez

“Mrs. Thacker was the most giving person in gifts, time and love. She truly cared for every single person in her class and would find something to bond over. For me it was Texas and Star Wars. She loved Buccees and Whataburger, and we bought each other many gifts from both places. We talked about Star Wars and the shows that came out recently. She was the type of person you just had to hug and say hi to if you saw her, even if it meant talking for 10 minutes when you had places to be. She was the teacher any student would dream of having. “ 

– senior Rylan Chapa

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.