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An unexpected reunion: A Fairfax County teacher discovers her former student is her co-worker over 20 years later

A simple conversation about Italian food lead Tamala Thompson-Griffin and Sasha Smith to discover a connection from over 20 years ago.

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — It was just another Tuesday -- until two teachers who worked across the hall from one another made a heartwarming discovery. 

School-Based Technology Specialist Tamala Thompson-Griffin and her co-worker and fourth-grade teacher Sasha Smith discovered that Thompson taught her second-grade class at Greenbriar West Elementary School in Fairfax in 1996.

Thompson said it was a normal day of her heating up her pasta Fagioli and while walking down the hall, Smith engaged her in conversation about Cantina D'Italia, a restaurant in Fairfax that she says has the best pasta Fagioli.

Smith told Thompson during that conversation that she was familiar with the area because she went to Greenbriar Elementary School and Thompson explained that she taught at the school when she first graduated from Norfolk State University.

Once they both came to the conclusion that Thompson was her second-grade teacher, they laughed, shared memories, hugged and even shared a few tears.

"Honestly, I did not have that realization. Now that I know, I'm like how did I not put two and two together?" Smith said.

At the beginning of the year, the Fort Belvoir Principal Jayme Chianetta hosted a kickoff activity and asked staff their "why." Thompson said it never clicked for her when hearing Smith explain that her second-grade teacher was her 'why'.

In a phone conversation, Smith told WUSA9, "She was the first stable and consistent person I really connected within the United States. I want to be that positive influence on them like she was on me. She kind of paved the way for everything."

Credit: Sasha Smith courtesy of Fort Belvoir ES Twitter

When Thompson was made aware that Smith would be joining her second-grade class in 1996 after being adopted from Russia, she asked her class to write Smith welcome letters.

"I wanted them to write letters just to make her feel comfortable when she comes," Thompson said.

Smith's parents still have those welcome letters 24 years later.

"Every time I would read them, they would mean more and more to me. Looking at them last night in over 20 years, it definitely brought tears to my eyes," Smith said.

The fourth-grade teacher couldn't remember when she could fully read her letters but said, "I held on to them because they were special."

What a happy reunion. Someone pass the tissues, please!

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