A lifetime of influence

Second-grade teacher Carrie Martin poses with former student Ti Anna Bridges-Reed in front of Evers Park Elementary School. Mrs. Martin won Barnes & Noble’s national Teacher of the Year award as a result of Ti Anna’s essay describing the faith her former teacher placed in her academic abilities.

For teachers, the results of a student’s educational advancement are often seen primarily over the course of a year. For Evers Park Elementary School teacher Carrie Martin, one student made it her goal to show how that impact can last a lifetime.

Thanks to recent graduate Ti Anna Bridges-Reed, Mrs. Martin recently received Barnes & Noble’s national Teacher of the Year award, primarily for how she helped Ti Anna pass a state-mandated test. Mrs. Martin beat more than 10,000 entries submitted by students nationwide to win the award as part of Barnes & Noble’s “My Favorite Teacher Contest.”

In her essay detailing why she felt Mrs. Martin should win the award, Ti Anna wrote that Mrs. Martin gave her the encouragement she needed to succeed both academically and as a person.

“Mrs. Martin was the first teacher I can ever remember who put faith in me; I didn’t even have faith in myself,” she wrote. “She let me know I could do anything if I believed. As a dyslexic child, I never had that special someone. Dyslexia is a reading and writing disorder that affects the way a child learns to read and write; it can affect other subjects as well. I struggled in all subjects — writing and math also.”

Ti Anna’s struggles eventually culminated by failing the state-required math test in fifth grade, which she needed to pass to advance to middle school. Mrs. Martin was there to comfort her, however, pulling her into the hall and letting her know she had confidence that the outcome of her re-take test would be different.

“Mrs. Martin was the first teacher I can ever remember who put faith in me; I didn’t even have faith in myself. She let me know I could do anything if I believed.” — TI ANNA BRIDGES-REED, RYAN ALUMNA

“You are going to pass that test,” Mrs. Martin told her, Ti Anna wrote. “I believe in you. And I know you can do it.”

Ti Anna did go on to pass the test, and she graduated from Ryan High School on June 3 with the goal of becoming a teacher, largely because of Mrs. Martin. In fact, Mrs. Martin made such an impact that Ti Anna began pursuing her desired career path before graduating. She served as an intern — or high school helper — for Mrs. Martin’s second-grade class last year, learning the ropes of what her former teacher does on a daily basis.

The reunion served as a reminder of how teachers can leave a lasting mark on students, Mrs. Martin said.

“When I found out she was going to be my high school helper, I immediately thought that I get to be with her again and have the opportunity to help her out — hopefully impact her life — again,” she said. “I remember the moment seven years ago when I pulled her in the hallway and told her I knew she’d pass. It’s such an amazing experience as a teacher knowing you can make an impact like that on someone’s life for the better.”

At a ceremony held by Barnes & Noble at Evers Park Elementary in May, that was evident when the company rewarded both Ti Anna and Mrs. Martin for their commitment to education. Mrs. Martin and Evers Park Elementary each received $5,000, while Ti Anna received $500 to use on her college textbooks as well as a Nook e-reader.

Mrs. Martin instructs her second-grade class at Evers Park Elementary. Her students, both current and former, have come to know Mrs. Martin as an educator who cares about the learning of every child and is overjoyed when they succeed.

While the monetary reward was exciting, Mrs. Martin said, teachers aren’t expecting to become rich in their profession — but they do make impacts and friendships that rival any amount of money.

“Teaching can be a difficult job because you spend so much time doing it without a break, but it’s so rewarding because my students tell me they love me on a daily basis,” she explained. “When they get that ‘ah-ha’ moment, it makes it all worthwhile. My husband was recently telling me he wishes he had a job where he could touch peoples’ lives, and I feel like I’m able to do that — I get to do that.”

As for Ti Anna, she plans to attend North Central Texas College before transferring to Texas Woman’s University and pursuing a teaching degree. Her winning essay cites Mrs. Martin’s commitment to tutoring her after school as a turning point in her educational journey, a standard of excellence she wants to have as a teacher with students of her own.

Ti Anna said that, with the exception of her mother, Mrs. Martin was the individual who most influenced her to become the person she is today.

“I always go back and look at my fifth-grade year when things are hard,” she said. “The transition to middle school was hard, and the transition from high school to college will be even harder, but I know I can do it — as long as I push myself and remember the faith Mrs. Martin put in me.”


For more information about the Barnes & Noble My Favorite Teacher Contest and its rules, visit its official website by clicking here.