COLUMBIA — Amanda Wright knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was in third grade. It was her two third-grade teachers who stimulated her own desire to become an educator.
"I really felt called to be a teacher," Wright said. "All throughout school, I imagined myself to be just like them."
Her passion for teaching made an impression, and she was nominated for Walmart's Teacher of the Year award. Over 11,000 teachers nationwide have received the award since it was first given in 1996.
The Walmart on Conley Road gave Wright, a kindergarten teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary School, the award on Oct. 17 at the end of a school assembly. The Walmart manager and several employees entered with bouquets, balloons and cupcakes for the students. Blue Ridge Principal Tim Majerus announced that Wright had won the award.
"I couldn't believe they said my name," Wright said. "It was a complete surprise."
As part of her award, Walmart gave her $100 to spend on her classroom and gave Blue Ridge $1,000, which Wright will decide how to spend. She is hoping to use the money to buy classroom supplies, learning games and literacy materials.
Majerus said Wright was very deserving of the award.
"Amanda is the type of teacher who values every student in her classroom," Majerus said. "She knows all of her students... (and) she goes the extra mile to show them that she loves them."
The award got sweeter for Wright when she learned one of the teachers who inspired her was given the same award.
"To be honored with the same award as someone amazing as her is an honor," Wright said.
A West Plains native, Wright has taught alongside the teachers that inspired her when she began her teaching career there five years ago.
Wright and her husband came to Columbia three years ago so he could attend the MU Law School. She got a job at Blue Ridge teaching kindergarten, the same grade she taught in West Plains.
"I like how I can establish the love of learning and school," she said, explaining how kindergarten is often a child's introduction to school. "I like to see their development from the beginning of the year to the end. It's wonderful."