When Ironwood Ridge High School sophomore Lauren Anthony was in sixth grade at Wilson K-8, she was given the opportunity to skip a year in math and landed in a pre-algebra class mostly filled with seventh and eighth graders. A self-admitted over-thinker, Anthony recalled the anxiety she felt when first walking into her class.
But then she met Christy Talmage, her new teacher.
Anthony said Talmage was not only understanding of her anxieties, but willing to go the extra mile to make sure her sixth-grade transplant felt right at home. Her dedication did not go unnoticed, and Talmage was recognized by her former pupil earlier this month when Barnes & Noble handed out the seventh annual “My Favorite Teacher” award on Friday, May 5.
High school and middle school students from across the country are asked every year to submit a poem, thank you letter or essay (in 500 words or less) which explains how one of their teachers between first and twelfth grade was a positive influence on their life.
Anthony was given the assignment by her English teacher Doreen Rouille, who discovered the contest, and soon realized it would fit perfectly with her own curriculum as she prepared her sophomores for AzMERIT testing.
“There is nothing more fun than actually doing something with a purpose, rather than just for a grade,” she said.
For Anthony, the contest meant shining a light on Talmage for all she had done years prior. Anthony called her a welcoming woman with an uplifting personality who worked tirelessly to make sure every one of her students fully understood mathematical concepts, so none were left behind.
“Her energetic personality kept the class focused, and it prevented the students from drifting off into their own world,” Anthony wrote. “Ms. Talmage is also a very optimistic person herself. You could go to her class in the worst mood and she will cheer you up without even talking to you individually. …I could always count on Ms. Talmage to brighten up my day.”
When Talmage received the call from the Barnes & Noble at Foothills Mall (7401 N. La Cholla Blvd) informing her she was selected as the local contest winner, she quickly recalled how “outstanding” a student Anthony was, and joked that the girl “makes me look good.”
“I love what I do, and I feel very blessed to love what I do,” she said. “It’s all exciting for me; math is a game, and I just get to come in and have fun with it. …My favorite end-of-the-year notes are the ones that come from parents that say, ‘She’s never really liked math, she’s always hated math – or he has – and now they love it.’ It’s just a blessing.”
Talmage’s work in the classroom has made a lasting impression on the rest of the Wilson staff, said the school’s principal, Adrian Hannah, who called Talmage “a gift to public education.”
“If her passion for both teaching math and seeing students succeed could be translated into academic grades, all of her students would have straight A’s,” Hannah said. “She makes the Wilson K-8 family a better place for staff, students and the community just by being a part of it.”
Both Anthony and Talmage received gift bags (including coffee) and formal recognition for their participation in “My Favorite Teacher” at the local level. If Anthony’s essay makes it all the way to the national competition, she and Talmage could pocket $5,000 each.