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Shawn sits down for a portrait in his home before leaving for work. Shawn's father died when he was 9 years old, and he leaned on members of the community for support during his schooling. "Morehead is a tight-knit community. Everyone is like a family," Shawn says. Shawn has been a leader and father figure to hundreds of kids in the area as a homebound instructor and coach.

Father to all

story by Mhari Shaw

Makenna Riddle's mom Mary Ann opens the front door and leads Shawn Thacker into the house. Coach is here, and he's going to read one of Makenna's favorite books, "Trolls."

"I have learned all of the troll names. Wanna hear them?" Shawn asks Makenna. Makenna is a high school senior who suffers from conditions that leave her nonverbal and unable to attend school. That's where Shawn comes in.

Shawn has been an influential part of the Rowan County school system for 10 years. In addition to coaching basketball, track and cross country, Shawn is also a homebound instructor for the county schools.

"Every day is a juggling act that you never know what to expect," Shawn says.

He visits the homes of kids every day who are in the homebound system. These visits include homework, tests or, in some cases, reading. Some of the kids in the homebound program  Shawn has visited have been injured in carnival accidents, suffered from leukemia, had babies while still in school or been diagnosed with autoimmune disorders, just to name a few.

Shawn's father died when he was nine years old. He didn't have a male figure to go to his games or help him with homework. The impact of losing his father motivated Shawn to be the person he is today. Shawn has helped hundreds of kids throughout his time as a homebound instructor. Not only does Shawn act as a calming and supportive father figure to his kids at work, he also has three children of his own.

Shawn's schedule depends on who needs him. When a parent calls and asks him to stop by, he goes.

"That's the thing about these kids: someone's got to be there for them and help them, and in these cases I get to be that person," Shawn says.

 

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Shawn coaches the Rowan County Senior High School boys basketball team. Widely known among the community as "Coach," Shawn has worked for the Rowan County school system for 10 years. He also coaches track and cross country.

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Shawn stops by the library to see some members of his track team. Shawn currently splits his time between coaching basketball, cross country and track, as well as being a homebound instructor and a father. "A normal homebound instructor is assigned no more than 12 students, except they gave me 10 because of my schedule," Shawn says.

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Shawn and his wife Katie have been married for 27 years. The couple have worked at Rowan County Senior High School for the past 10 years. Katie is originally from Zimbabwe, South Africa, and moved to Morehead when she began college. "I had a goal of being a single man and living out on a boat. I would have been happy, but Ms. Thatcher decided to marry me," Shawn said.

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Shawn speaks with Laken McIntosh (left) and mother Melissa Fultz as he makes his weekly home visit. Laken was put into the homebound program after having gallbladder surgery, and she has been out of school ever since. Laken is currently in the seventh grade at Rowan County Middle School.

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Shawn reads to Makenna Riddle during his weekly visit to her house. Makenna suffers from condtions that leaves her nonverbal and unable to attend school. As a homebound instructor, Shawn has been visiting Makenna for three years. "She lights up when she sees Coach," Makenna's mother Mary Ann says.

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Carter Stevens (center) and his grandmother Vivian Wagner talk with Shawn after completing one of Carter's required tests for the week. Carter, a fifth grade student at Rodburn Elementary School, recently entered the homebound program due to anxiety at school. Shawn will continue to visit Carter two days a week until he is cleared to go back to school.

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Shawn talks with friends during the first Brewha, which is a fundraiser for the local arts center.

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Shawn has three children, two of which still live at home. Shawn's middle son Tyler has followed in his footsteps and volunteers as a boys basketball coach for Rowan County Middle School. Shawn has helped hundreds of children in the community through the homebound program.

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