Cassie Tallant recalls loving her middle school experience, even amidst her awkward teenage years.
Now as a sixth grade language arts and reading teacher at Riverview Middle School, she aims to give her students the same satisfaction.
In her seventh year as a teacher, Tallant, 28, has been named the school's 2012-13 Teacher of the Year. As the language arts department head, she is busy setting up the school's spelling bee and mock writing exam.
However, her main focus is the students she interacts with and teaches every day. Coming from teaching seventh grade, Tallant views her time with the sixth graders as "crucial."
"I have loved coming down to sixth grade. I feel like students need a little more attention because they are scared and nervous," she said.
"I love the process of bringing them in and getting them comfortable. It's been a joy."
In the classroom she said she tries to teach her students to have open minds and foster acceptance.
"We are all different and we have to appreciate those differences," she said.
Tallant, who attended North Georgia College & State University for her bachelor's and master's degrees, said she decided to be an English teacher after she struggled with her own writing in college.
"It was embarrassing and a little crazy. So I decided I wanted to teach writing and in the process learn how to be a better writer myself. So I decided middle school is where my focus would be," she said.
She believes her past writing experiences help her better understand those who are struggling.
"I feel like I can come from the viewpoint of someone who is not very strong at it and take those students who are struggling and make them feel more confident in it. That's why I love language arts," she said.
Assistant principal Kristi Gerrells said the school is "blessed" to have Tallant as a teacher, which is why she was nominated for the award.
"She is loved and respected by her peers and students. She is gentle, yet firm ... her expectations are high, and she gets positive results from her students," she said.
Gerrells said Tallant's students scored well on the language arts portion of the spring CRCT.
"We are very proud of Cassie's accomplishments, and look forward to celebrating her year," Gerrells said.
Later this fall, Tallant has the chance to be selected as the systemwide teacher of the year from among the 2012-13 teachers of the year at each of the local schools.
An external committee of administrators and teachers from neighboring counties will look at each of the nominated teachers and make a final selection.