Liberty Middle School teacher Mara Lambert said it was a surreal moment when she saw her family, friends and colleagues gathered to surprise her as she was presented recently with the Hanover County Public Schools Teacher of the Year award.
Lambert, who has been a teacher for 23 years, said she was ecstatic last year when her colleagues nominated her for the award.
“That was the best feeling because the teachers truly valued what I’ve brought them in a short time. It was only my second full year at Liberty. So it felt like I already kinda won,” she said about last year’s nomination.
She didn’t win last year, but when she was presented with the school division’s top annual distinction last month, she was overcome with emotion. “I started to tear up,” she said.
An alumni of California University of Pennsylvania who studied speech pathology and elementary education, Lambert is now an instructional technology resource teacher at Liberty, assisting students and other teachers in implementing contemporary technology in the classroom.
She said one recent project she worked on had students reviewing creative writing assignments completed by children in Cape Town, South Africa, to identify different literary techniques and themes in their writing.
In another recent project, she said students used a green screen to make a video reimagining a story they had just read from the perspective of another character.
“My job’s fun,” Lambert said in an interview last week. “I get to work with everybody doing everything all the time. I never know what tomorrow is going to bring.”
Lambert said her oldest brother, who is diagnosed with Down syndrome, inspired her to become an educator. “I grew up learning with him and learning from him,” she said.
She later switched the focus of her teaching after helping develop the technology curriculum at another school district she worked for several years ago.
“What inspires me is the fact that I have teachers dying to learn something new and take a risk,” Lambert said. “I get to go with the kids and see their excitement. There’s nothing better than seeing those light bulbs go off and their creativity.”
Liberty Middle School Principal Donald Latham said Lambert exudes a sense of passion that’s contagious.
“She has an ability to inspire and lift teachers and students to try new things in the ever-changing world of technology,” he said.
And Lambert knows it.
“I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life. I love what I do,” she said. “I feel like I’m good at it, and it makes me happy.”