McKinney ISD


Student’s Essay About MHS Teacher Wins Barnes & Noble Contest

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Monday, April 17, 2017

McKinney, Texas – Before he walked into Laura Smith’s AVID class at McKinney High School four years ago, Jaime Tamayo was content with his academic aspirations. But, his first conversation with Smith changed that—and fundamentally altered the trajectory of Jaime’s academic career.

So, when the Barnes & Noble My Favorite Teacher Essay Contest showed up on his radar recently, Jaime saw an opportunity to honor the person who had impacted his life in such a significant way.

Laura Smith and Jaime Tamayo

Laura Smith and Jaime Tamayo at the Barnes & Noble My Favorite Teacher Essay Contest local winner award presentation.

“Before I came across this memorable teacher,” Jaime wrote, “I never sought to challenge myself by taking upper-level courses. I never looked for ways to engage in new activities or opportunities, and I didn’t believe it was necessary for me to set new goals or higher standards. I was completely unaware of the true value of an education.

“The first conversation I had with [Ms. Smith] was her telling me I needed to get a schedule change because I wasn’t taking any upper-level courses. I was afraid of those classes. I didn’t believe I was capable of surviving in that type of environment, but she still forced me to do it.

“And, now as a high school senior, I realize how crucial that moment was because it was there where I discovered the potential I had within me, where I left my comfort zone and became more ambitious, more open to challenges and to setting higher standards for myself.

“It was thanks to that moment that I’m able to have a high GPA that reflects the hard work I put into all the upper-level courses I took through high school. And, because of them, I can now proudly say that I’ve been accepted to several universities.”

As it turned out, Jaime’s heartfelt tribute won the local round of the contest, and on Thursday, April 9, he had the opportunity to read it at the Creekwalk Barnes & Noble location in Plano in front of Smith, some teachers from MHS, his mom and anyone else in the store who wanted to listen. He and Smith each received a bagful of books and gift certificates along with a certificate of recognition.

Now, Jaime’s essay will move to the regional round of the competition, and if it wins, will garner a $500 prize for Smith. The national winning essay receives $5,000 for the teacher and a $500 gift card for the student.

“I am honored and humbled Jaime chose me for his favorite teacher,” said Smith. “It has been a privilege to support him along the way. His determination and hard work have led to his academic and personal success, and I am proud to have taught such a kind, dedicated, honest, respectful and overall amazing student.”

Where he was once content to take the easy path through high school, Jaime is now headed to the University of North Texas with plans to pursue a career in sports marketing.

“[Ms. Smith] taught me that I have the same opportunities others have, and…thanks to her, I’m now on the proper path to success, looking to further my education at a university and, hopefully, one day make all of my dreams come true.”

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