SAN ANTONIO — Tiffany Walderman proudly calls herself a Military Brat. It’s what makes her so relatable and why she is this week's Excel Award winner.
“That's what impacts our kids and our teachers, “said Teresa Leija Principal at Lackland Elementary School, “they see her love of military kids.”
Walderman is the Librarian and Media Specialist for Pre-K through 5th grade. She says her personal experience has really helped shape who she is today as a strong teacher and mentor, to other children who come from military families.
“They make me love coming to work. They genuinely do. They're the reason why I love my job."
The library at Lackland Elementary is like a second home to Walderman with a rainbow of possibilities. Her touch is on every corner.
“A library is really an important and a special place and it holds the keys that can open a lot of doors for kids. “
Through the many rows of books, you’ll find a variety of stuffed animals, a makeshift campfire, and even a technologically advanced setup using sound effects and Apps to assist her while reading to her classes.
The kids say she brings magic to their school experience.
“When they're in this place, they're safe and they're valued and they're seen and they're important. “
Many of the kids here, four to eleven year olds, have a story to share. Most of them have moved to San Antonio from a different state or country. They’ve traveled from place to place and attended multiple schools.
"I was born in England, then I came to Virginia then I went back to England,” said Easton, who’s just 7 years old and now one of Walderman’s students in San Antonio.
His friend Levi said he was worried when he first came here, “I just wanted to see if I could make a friend for the first day, then after the first week I met him,” Levi pointing to Easton as he hugged him.
Walderman says she can relate.
“I was born in Germany. I'm not really from anywhere. We moved a lot, growing up with so many unknown factors of where’s your parent going to be next week or next month? it's a really heavy burden for these kids."
So if anyone understands these kids, she does.
“We become the support system,” Walderman said, “they're very vocal. Some of them definitely feel like they need and want to share and it means a lot to me to be able to talk with them."
600 kids pass through her library.
"It does take a very special person because it's every child in every classroom. There's nobody that gets left out,” Principal Leija said.
Walderman is that special person. She knows every single student by name "it’s the value in the work I do. If I don't know them, I can't guide them and I can't expose them to something that's going to mean something to them and it's going to ignite some type of passion or interest or fire.“
Students say Walderman inspires them to embrace and enjoy reading, the same way her mother who’s a longtime educator, inspired her.
"I realized that these books that I had been read to throughout my life, they really they were part of the person that I became and the things that I believed in and the magic in my life,” Walderman added "why wouldn't I want to share it with as many kids as possible?”
Walderman was nominated by Lackland ISD for the KENS 5 EXCEL Award. As part of this award, she also received $1,000 from our partner Credit Human.