HANCOCK COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) — For November’s Golden Apple Awards, one former student said having lunch with her teacher is the reason she is alive today.

“If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be standing here right now. From the ages of 13-16, I had been in and out of hospitals. I was suicidal all my life. Art really got me through that. I still do art to this day.” 

“I wouldn’t have a daughter if it wasn’t for taking her class. Because I got bullied ruthlessly. Every second of every day.” 

Eliza Homol, 2020 graduate, nominator

Eliza Homol graduated from Weir High School in 2020, but she cannot help but still think about the teacher who saved her life. Mrs. Johnston was her lunch buddy, and years after graduation, Mrs. Johnston is just now hearing her impact.

“Um, shocked. Because a lot of times these kids are so strong, you don’t even know what they’re going through until they tell you, or until later. So, I just always try to be the bright part of their day.” 

Laura Johnston, Golden Apple Awards Winner

“Our first goal as educators is to make sure the kids feel safe and loved. And teachers like Mrs. Johnston are just the epitome of that.” 

Kristin Bissett, Principal at Weir High School

It’s Mrs. Johnston’s 10th year at Weir High.

7NEWS asked Eliza if she thought Mrs. Johnston will go on to save more than just one life. 

“Oh yeah. I can say she’s definitely helped probably a few kids that she doesn’t realize really struggle throughout school,” said Eliza. “Because people don’t think you’re good enough. And when you sit there and make something in her class and she thinks it’s the best thing she’s ever seen in the world, it really puts something inside of you to keep on going.” 

A mural stands proud in Weir High, painted by Eliza who now runs her own art business; a drop in the paint bucket, now a brush given purpose.

Mrs. Johnston said she’s spending The Health Plan’s $250 on more art supplies.

To nominate the next Golden Apple Awards Winner, head here.