Wilson’s buttons show faces behind the masks

  • Realtor Adam Wilson shows how he has been making more than 2,000 photo buttons for area school teachers and administrators in his home. - Photo submitted

  • Farragut Primary School art teacher Mary Catherine Adams, who shared the idea for the photo buttons ultimately funded and created by Realtor Adam Wilson, poses with the button batch Wilson provided for FPS. - Photo submitted

A local Realtor is providing a way for students to “see” their teachers and administrators beyond current mask mandates.

Adam Wilson, who owns Adam Wilson Realty in Hardin Valley, has made more than 2,000 buttons, depicting the smiling face of each wearer, and distributed them free of charge in more than 30 Knox County Schools.

He was alerted to the need when a friend, Farragut Primary School art teacher Mary Catherine Adams, shared an article on Facebook near the end of July about Vanderbilt Hospital nurses who created buttons “so their patients could see their smile, because COVID-19 had inhibited them from showing their smiles,” Adams said.

“I shared the article and said, ‘I love this idea. I wonder if we can get these made before the 17th?’” she added.

Wilson, a former high school chemistry teacher, said he was immediately struck when he saw Adams’ post.

“I thought, ‘They do need that. That is a great idea.’” he said. “I know the way I ran my classroom, and it was all about relationships. Getting to know someone involves interaction, and seeing their faces, and I thought how important that is for kids to be able to do, especially now.”

“Adam commented he would love to pay for these buttons for the staff at my school, and many other schools,” Adams added. “(Fellow art teacher) Molly Currin and I both took pictures of the staff at Farragut Primary on the first day of in-service. We edited them the way Adam asked us to, then sent them to him. He took care of the button production and distribution.

“It made something fun and exciting for all of us to get back to work, doing what we love, and to show our smile to the students. The staff and students are all loving the buttons, and are very thankful for Adam Wilson’s kindness and generosity during this very difficult time.”

Wilson said after first working with Adams, he simultaneously e-mailed other Knox County School principals, offering the service, for which he is still receiving requests.

Locally, he has provided buttons to Farragut High School and all three Hardin Valley public schools, among others, and currently is working on buttons for Karns Middle and Cedar Bluff Elementary schools.

At first he thought he might go to the schools and take the pictures, as Adams and Currin had done, but a principal offered to send staff photos, making Wilson’s job “a lot easier,” he said.

He credits a Bearden Office Depot employee, Elizabeth Legere, with helping oversee the enormous files and format the photos, which he then turned into buttons at his home in Cedar Bluff .

“I used four photos per page … and put them into a button press for the end result,” he said.

While Wilson said he has made “about 75 percent” of the buttons himself, he also credits his wife, Jenna Wilson, along with his friends, Dave and Jen Capezza, Erin Lacienski and Bill and Yvonne Cressy, with helping out on the project — several of whom provided delivery services.

Wilson said he has been “happy” to provide this unique service during such unique times, and is just asking that other area businesses think about “responding in kind” to his story.

“Teachers have so many needs right now, and there are going to be so many opportunities to support them this year,” he said.

“We can do this, and help them, we just need to figure it out together.”