Danbury High School sophomore Miria Martin wrote a testimonial about her teacher, Rachel Torres O’Leary, that earned O’Leary the “My Favorite Teacher” award in a Barnes & Noble Danbury contest and entrance in regional competition and a $500 prize. The award will be presented at a ceremony at the local bookstore during Spring Educator Appreciation Week, April 12-20.
Torres O’Leary is now under consideration for the regional title and, if selected, would win $50o and move on to compete in the “Barnes & Noble National Teacher of the Year.” For the national contest, the winner and the school district would each receive $5,000.
Martin moved to the United States with her family when she was eight years old and didn’t speak a word of English. For the past two years, she has had Torres O’Leary as a social studies teacher and credits her with giving her a drive to succeed. Martin said that Torres O’Leary makes her a better student and even the completion of assignments is now a source of pride rather than a nightmare.
“Mrs. Torres opened my eyes to a better view on life. Her techniques made me more compassionate, more determined and driven to succeed far in life,” wrote Martins, who wants to be a medical doctor. “I struggled in my beginning years of high school, and I wanted to give up on everything, everyone, including myself, but she was persistent in providing help educationally and emotionally.”
The judges who selected the essay said “Miria Martins’ submission . . . won our admiration and stole our hearts. Her moving essay detailing the virtues of Mrs. Torres is truly heartfelt and inspiring.”
Torres O’Leary, who has taught high school for eight years, said it was sweet to win an award from Barnes & Noble, given that she has worked to make books a part of children’s lives. What was even sweeter, was that one of her students took the time to write about her in such a moving tribute.
“That she took the time to write about me is such a gift,” she said. “I was elated.”