ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) - It means a lot when a student knows a teacher cares about them.
Not just about their education, but about them as a person.
One local high school student wanted the Tennessee Valley to know that at Athens High School, there's at least one teacher who is as compassionate as they come.
Stefan Mander wrote to tell us about his old math teacher, Lara Malone.
"She just comes to school every day with a smile on her face and she does everything in her power to help the student," Mander said, "I think her job's more important to her than her after school life, to be honest."
Mander snuck out of weight-lifting to join us as we surprised Malone with $319 in cash recently. The Tools for Teachers award-winner was grading papers, alone at her desk during a prep period, when we popped in. She was shocked to see us and to learn that Mander was behind it all.
"He's a great kid but it just, never entered my radar that anybody would choose me," Malone said, laughing.
Mander said it was hard for him to sit in class sometimes, as he struggled with a kidney condition. He actually had to have surgery to correct it. Through his health struggles, Mander said Malone was always there, asking how he felt.
"She was always understanding and made sure I was comfortable in her classroom, that I was OK and everything," Mander said.
Malone tells WHNT News 19 she's just like any other educator - a fact that sometimes gets overlooked.
"Education gets a bad wrap a lot of times," Malone explained, "But most people in this profession love kids and we're here for their best interest."
Malone hopes to use the money to buy some calculators, to help more kids navigate her tough curriculum.