JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Doctor Jerry “Dusty” Sayers, a longtime history teacher at Science Hill High School, passed away Sunday morning, according to Johnson City Schools Superintendent Doctor Steve Barnett.
Students and staff were notified on Canvas Sunday night, and additional counseling support was available on campus Monday.
“He was a teacher that I looked forward to going to his class, just because of the person he was and very kind-hearted, and very patient because Lord knows he needed it with our class a few times,” said 2013 graduate Mackenzie Hickman. “He took so much from himself just to teach others and light the way for his students and it really meant a lot for him for us to learn and take something from the class.”
Hickman says Sayers’ legacy went beyond his classroom.
“Everything he wore, everything was set in the era that he specialized in. So he is definitely somebody that I will always remember,” Hickman said. “At school, he called all the students by their last name; it was “Mister” and “Miss” and our last name. I remember him always saying that was respectful to do.”
Teaching history was not only his passion professionally, but personally as well on stage as Samuel Doak in “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals.”
“He was very into his role of Samuel Doak, and he brought a lot of energy and passion to that and so, a really infectious kind of personality,” said Steve Darden, a fellow castmate. “Samuel Doak is known to have delivered an inspirational sermon and then a prayer asking for God Almighty to bless this expedition, and that is the part that he brought so much passion and really brought to life. For that period of moments, he was Samuel Doak.”
Darden, a former Johnson City mayor, also knew Sayers professionally as his daughter and nephew’s teacher.
“The contribution he made with his life’s work to inspire students, to help them go on to bigger and better things as educated people, as thinking people, as people who appreciated the history of our region. It’s quite an important legacy,” said Darden.
Sayers’ death was sudden and shocking to many.
“I was shocked, I didn’t realize he had even been ill. So, I understand his illness was brief,” said Darden. “Anytime that someone in the prime of their career and so forth, it is a bit of a shock.”
His former castmate would not elaborate on Sayer’s illness and his cause of death has not been confirmed, but he did say that Sayers leaves behind a wife and two sons.
“His sons, Landon and Beau, were often at rehearsals, and they even participated as some of the cast members,” he recalled. “I think his primary legacy is that of a loving father, and that was evident from watching him interact with his sons.”
No one from the Johnson City School system was available for comment about Dr. Sayers on Monday. News Channel 11 also reached out to several family members and is awaiting a response.