Susan Kincannon, right, hugs Jo Ann Pemberton, who taught at Cater Elementary School when Kincannon was principal, during a farewell reception for Susan Kincannon, the new Waco ISD superintendent, hosted by Belton ISD at the Bawcom Student Union Building on the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor campus in Belton on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. Michael Miller/Telegram

BELTON — Speaker after speaker made it clear Wednesday that outgoing Belton schools Superintendent Susan Kincannon impacted not only students but the community as a whole.

“She’s a teacher at heart,” board Vice President Jeff Norwood said, explaining that Kincannon has taught him unimaginable lessons during his four years as a Belton schools trustee.

Norwood was one of more than a dozen people who talked about their experiences working with Kincannon — who begins her new job as the new Waco Independent School District superintendent on Thursday — at a farewell reception.

“It has been my honor to serve here and I will forever hold it in my heart,” Kincannon told the more than 75 gathered in the McLane Great Hall at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Bawcom Student Union.

Several of the speakers gave Kincannon gifts as a way to thank her for her service.

UMHB President Randy O’Rear gave the longtime educator a miniature sword. He said it was a way to honor their friendship and to show how proud the university is of Kincannon, a 1990 graduate of the university.

“Her leadership has been outstanding,” O’Rear said. “As president of Mary Hardin-Baylor, we are proud of our graduate.”

As O’Rear handed Kincannon the sword, she joked, “I don’t think that would cut the mustard with the student code of conduct.”

State Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, and Belton Police Chief Gene Ellis handed Kincannon challenge coins to recognize her leadership of Belton Independent School District.

“You’ve made Belton better with your leadership,” Ellis said, adding that the two would often have breakfast meetings at Sol De Jalisco to discuss school safety.

Shine and Cheryl Hassman of U.S. Rep. John Carter’s office presented Kincannon with resolutions.

“Over the course of her career, Dr. Kincannon has helped many young Texans — many of those are our children and our grandchildren,” the legislator said.

Hassman read a letter from Carter, a Round Rock Republican.

“Every student deserves someone who believes in them — no matter what their circumstances. My friend Susan’s personal story was a driving force for her becoming a great educator and leader,” Carter wrote in his letter. “I am confident that she will continue her record of innovation in her new role in the Waco Independent School District.”

Allyn Testreot, president of the Belton Education Enrichment Foundation, said the group will dedicate a $1,000 scholarship in Kincannon’s honor. The scholarship will be given to a graduating senior this school year.

Randy Pittenger — the current president of the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce — was on the school board when they decided to hire Kincannon as superintendent.

“It always came down to one thing for her — the kids,” he said.

Kincannon and Temple ISD Superintendent Bobby Ott started as deputy superintendents around the same time. Kincannon in Belton ISD, and Ott in Copperas Cove ISD.

“We’ve known each other and supported each other for a long time,” Ott said. “I am not only grateful for the personal friendship Susan and I have shared over the last decade, but professionally I am also a better administrator for knowing her.”

Mayor Marion Grayson said the city of Belton dedicated four books in Kincannon’s honor.

The books are “Because Internet: Understanding the New Rule of Language;” “The Librarian of Auschwitz;” “Llama Llama Loves to Read;” and “How I Met My Monster.” The books will be available at the Lena Armstrong Public Library.

“I love your story about how you got into education,” Grayson told Kincannon. “I love — and everyone else does too — how you light up when you see kids. There’s no mistaking your true love that you have for education.