Trish Cameron has been a fourth-grade teacher for only five years, and already she has earned Wal-Mart's honor of "Teacher of the Year."
The department store donated $1,000 to her school, Horizon Elementary in Potomac Falls, in conjunction with the distinction. Demp Bell, co-manager, said he and other store representatives visited Cameron's classroom last week. They gave her a Wal-Mart greeter's vest with "Teacher of the Year" on it and a $50 gift certificate. She is now in the running for the state competition, which carries a $10,000 check for the school. The state winner will enter the national contest, which has a $25,000 prize.
TOM COULTER, 9, nominated Cameron. "She helps me see things that I might not be able to see," he said during a telephone interview last week. "I think she is a good teacher, because she makes school fun."
Coulter said "Miss Cameron" also assists him with school work. "She won't give you answers, but she will help you out. She always makes it challenging for you."
Jane Coulter, said her son decided to enter her into the competition when he saw a kiosk at Wal-Mart in Sterling. "It was his idea," she said.
Her son has blurry vision at certain distances and participates in vision therapy, she said.
Bell said the nomination was not the only reason Cameron was singled out. She received the most votes of any teacher in the Sterling/Ashburn area. "She had the most ballots from her class," he said.
Teresa Williams, the fourth-grade room mother, said Coulter was right — Cameron makes learning fun. On a recent morning, the teacher handed out color-coded stickers, but did not explain their meaning to the children. Cameron confided in Williams, telling her the students with yellow stickers would be treated differently from those with pink ones. The topic was segregation.
The students bearing yellow could do no right and the others could do no wrong. She later switched the roles. Then they wrote about the experience. "I thought it was very creative," she said.
Cameron, 27, graduated from Broad Run High School in 1995 and attended Louisiana State University. She followed her mom's footsteps. Patti Camera taught first grade in Loudoun County until her retirement last year.
What Trish Cameron likes best about teaching is watching her students grow academically, she said Monday. "I try to make it as fun as possible."
She uses "Jeopardy" and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" games as teaching tools. Because fourth-graders routinely learn Virginia history, she holds an annual Colonial day. She has the students dress up in Colonial clothes, churn butter, make yarn dolls, play old-fashioned games and write with quilt feathers.
HORIZON PRINCIPAL William Raye Jr., said it is a "terrific honor," and he is particularly proud that a Horizon teacher earned the tribute. "She was recognized by one of her students. That says a lot about a teacher," he added.
Bell said everyone knows of Wal-Mart's location, but few residents are aware of how much the store gives to the community. He estimated the Sterling Wal-Mart made $50,000 in donations last year. "This is a good partnership for us," he said, referring to the Teacher of the Year program. "It highlights what a great job she is doing, and she should be rewarded publicly."
Wal-Mart, in conjunction with National's Teacher's Day, awarded $4.2 million nationally to schools with winning teachers this year.