A Solon Springs teacher celebrated her students’ journey through the school year with one of her own.

Amanda Guttormson ran 18 miles in 80-degree heat Thursday, May 21; one mile for each of her 14 students and an additional four in honor of family, friends and past and future students. The round trip route ran from her home to Solon Springs School and back.

Pace cars rolled ahead of and behind her. The lead car, driven by special education teacher Lori Price, held a gift bag for each child. Behind was Guttormson’s husband, Bjorn, their three daughters and an assortment of squirt guns to help cool her down. Her mother, Barb Larson, brought up the rear for moral support.

“One would have thought it would have been a cooler day today. But somebody prayed for the warm weather and here we go,” Guttormson said. “At least there’s a little breeze every once in a while.”

Rozlynn Bunt, left, and her grandmother Kathy Larsen give “air hugs” to Bunt’s teacher Amanda Guttormson along County Road A Thursday afternoon, May 21. Guttormson ran 18 miles for her students, including Bunt, as she ran from her house to the school and back.  (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Rozlynn Bunt, left, and her grandmother Kathy Larsen give “air hugs” to Bunt’s teacher Amanda Guttormson along County Road A Thursday afternoon, May 21. Guttormson ran 18 miles for her students, including Bunt, as she ran from her house to the school and back. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

The first student to meet her on the journey was Rozlynn Bunt. She and her grandmother, Kathy Larsen, exchanged long-distance air hugs with Guttormson at mile marker three, just past the Hidden Greens Golf Course driveway.

"She kept going ‘I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry,’'’ Larsen said of her granddaughter. “We cried.”

Guttormson is an incredible teacher who has gone above and beyond for her class as they learned digitally, she said.

“She’s my favorite teacher,” Bunt said.

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The moment was emotional for Guttormson, too.

“I just wanted to honor them and all they accomplished,” she said, fighting back tears. “The journey that these kids have gone through has been unreal, so I just wanted to honor them and send them off on a good note.”

The idea began as a joke with students during their daily morning meeting. Guttormson was a runner in high school and college. She and her husband met when they were both runners at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and she’s finished a half-marathon in the past.

“When this corona thing started, I started running again,” Guttormson said. “That’s when I joked with the kids that ‘I’m going to run to the school for you.’ That was before I realized this would last for so long.”

Solon Springs fifth-grade teacher Amanda Guttormson, right, poses with a sign marked for one of her students as her husband Bjorn takes her photo as she runs along County Road A Thursday afternoon, May 21. Guttormson ran 18 miles for her students, while her husband took a photo of her with each sign for her students.  (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Solon Springs fifth-grade teacher Amanda Guttormson, right, poses with a sign marked for one of her students as her husband Bjorn takes her photo as she runs along County Road A Thursday afternoon, May 21. Guttormson ran 18 miles for her students, while her husband took a photo of her with each sign for her students. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Wanting to do something special for the end of the year, she set up the run. She and Price planted bright posters and balloons at each mile Thursday. The posters had a student’s name and a special quote. Some came from people Guttormson looks up to, like Mother Teresa and Fred Rogers. All were student-specific.

“One of my boys loves LeBron James, so I found a quote from him,” the fifth grade teacher said.

Eight of her 14 students were waiting on the route. They walked away with bags of gifts — books, artwork, pencils, a water bottle and a letter from next year’s teacher.

There are no plans to top the run for next year’s class. This was a singular moment in history, Guttormson said.

“I really just did it for the kids,” she said. “This group of fifth graders has been through a lot of stuff, and so I just felt like this was what I had to do for them to honor them.

"We can get through anything if you put your mind to it," she said.