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‘It was about what she taught us’

Adrianna Chico Evans wasn’t physically present in the gym at St. Francis Central Catholic School on Wednesday evening, but her spirit still painted a compelling picture.

On that canvas was a work of love, her father, Bob Chico, told those who gathered.

It was a depiction of faith and of the call to teaching, he continued.

His daughter, who taught 3rd grade and was much loved by her students, lost her fight with COVID last fall, just three weeks after her son, Luke was born by emergency Caesarian section.

In the days after, Chico and his son-in-law, Zach Evans, decided to turn a dark tragedy into a legacy of light – to honor the profession his daughter so loved.

The result was the creation of the Adrianna Chico Evans Family Fund – ACE, for short – which provides a cash gift of $2,500 to a teacher who exemplifies a call to service, both in the classroom and out of it.

Contributions to a GoFundMe account people had set up while Adrianna was hospitalized were funneled in to help bankroll the award and the organization that is now taking root around it.

“Teachers don’t just teach,” Chico said during the inaugural award ceremony, as he spoke behind a podium on a set-up stage with a portrait of his smiling daughter at his side.

Or, in other words, it’s not just about the “lesson plan” for the day, he said.

Teachers impart values, Adrianna’s father said.  

And while sometimes the lessons received don’t come from textbooks, he said, they almost always end up becoming the things you pass on to your children – and the things they, in turn, pass on to your grandchildren.

Chico nodded over to his daughter’s portrait during his talk.

“The ACE award doesn’t pay tribute to her,” he said to the St. Francis teachers seated in front of the stage for the evening. “It pays tribute to you.”

Chico wants the award to eventually grow beyond West Virginia to honor teachers across the nation and the world.

It’s nice for them and it’s nice for his grandson, now a strapping 7-month-old, he said.

ACE’s inaugural recipient, meanwhile, is a veteran St. Francis faculty member known internationally for her work to eradicate the specter of unexploded land mines in former war zones – ordnance that continues to kill and maim long after those conflicts that generated them ended.

And, as an equally acclaimed art teacher, Nora Sheets paints compelling pictures, also, while inspiring her students to do the same.

Several years ago, she flew to war-torn Bosnia, to use her art talent for peace.

The idea was to help children with post-traumatic stress disorder find solace and healing through art.

Other altruistic, globe-trotting sojourns followed, and in 1999, her students, inspired by their art teacher’s accounts of those trips, founded PSALM – which stands for Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs – as a way to build awareness.

Twenty-three years later, PSALM is still going strong. Two weeks ago, it dedicated its annual art show in memory of Adrianna Chico Evans.

“It was about what she taught us,” Sheets said.