Tonie Tolar Garcia ’15 is living out the dream she’s had for as long as she can remember: making a difference in the lives of children by becoming an educator.
Thanks to PBA’s rigorous preparation, Garcia is thriving in her kindergarten classroom at West Glades School in LaBelle, Florida — so much so that she won the Glades County District Teacher of the Year award. The district presented her with the award at its Golden Apple Celebration last month.
“I’m one of those rare kids who has known what they’ve wanted to be since I was little,” Garcia said. “God was placing that in my heart before I even could understand the gravity that it was going to be my job one day.”
Garcia’s West Glades colleagues chose her as the school’s best teacher to advance her to the next round of selection for district of the year. She wrote an essay, submitted her résumé and was observed in the classroom before the district selected her to receive its top honor.
She’s humbled by the recognition and credits her PBA education for her success so early in her career.
“PBA was amazing. I felt so prepared my first year of teaching,” Garcia said. “From the beginning, we were in the classroom teaching.”
Every semester, Garcia and her fellow early elementary education majors had hands-on opportunities in public or private schools. She taught in kindergarten classrooms at Frontier Elementary School in Loxahatchee, Florida and Jupiter Christian School in Jupiter, Florida.
At the time, she and her peers complained about how long their lesson plans had to be. Now, she’s grateful for School of Education & Behavioral Studies’ high standards.
“When you get to real life, you feel so prepared,” she said.
She strives to bring a positive attitude and patience to work every day, not knowing what her students went through before they arrived at school. Some of Garcia’s students see her more than they see their parents, she said.
In her essay, she described the trust her students demonstrate when they look to her to “love them, cheer for them, wipe their tears, clean a boo-boo and open up the magical doors of learning.” She encourages them to show kindness and never give up, even when it’s challenging.
Garcia concluded: “The chance I am given to empower 5-year-olds with all of those opportunities inspires me to uphold the title of being an educator with joy and purpose.”
Photo: Tonie Tolar Garcia '15 holds her Glades County Teacher of the Year award at the Golden Apple celebration. Garcia is a teacher at West Glades School in LaBelle, Florida.