Most Inspiring Teacher Finalists

Daily Health Solutions
on December 1, 2011

Marilyn Martin

Nominated by Marcia Noyes

Thirty-four years after I encountered Marilyn Martin, my high school English teacher in 1977-1978, I'm still living out the inspiration she provided in that one year. Marilyn Martin gave me two things I most needed to navigate life—a belief in my writing and myself. Ms. Martin’s encouragement set me on a career path that took me places I could only dream of going. I became a television reporter, magazine writer, freelance newspaper journalist and now head up the national and international PR for one of the premier healthcare technology companies in the country. With her encouragement I found a career that never felt like work, and for that I'm eternally grateful. That year, she also gave us an assignment that completely changed my life—to write a research paper on any topic. Despite being an overweight teenager, I chose "Women and Long Distance Running." Through that assignment I developed a love of running that is also taking me places I could not have imagined. I'm training to qualify for the Boston Marathon and have run six marathons, five half-marathons and countless 10Ks and 5Ks. I have the unique privilege of being coached by a former world record holder of the marathon and have learned from some of the world's top fitness experts, including Oprah's trainer Bob Greene, who helped me finish the Portland Marathon in 1998. This inspiring teacher not only changed the life of this overweight teenager but set her on a journey of lifelong joy in writing. I now try to inspire others the way she inspired me.

Sandra Vanatko

Nominated by Saskia Vaughan

Sandra has overcome incredible odds to be able to run her own Yoga studio in Weatherford, Texas. After losing her mother to cancer when she was just out of high school, she has made it her mission to help her students gain and regain their health through yoga. She focuses on preventive health, and believes no one should have to suffer with cancer like her mother did. She inspires her students to make changes in their habits before it is too late. She loves unconditionally and always has a positive word for all who come to her classes. She works with students from ages 10 through 99 and is able to give many of them the strength and confidence to make their lives healthier and more productive. Many have come to her in pain, and in various stages of despair and find a good measure of relief through her teaching of movement and breathing techniques. Sandra inspires me to go out and move and be active everyday so I can enjoy a longer and more fulfilling life.

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Carol McKinley

Nominated by Christina Claypool

Carol McKinley has overcome all odds. The retired teacher who helped countless children learn to read was born with Cerebral Palsy. But today, you can find her instructing fitness classes at the Hardin County Family YMCA. The disease affected Carol’s left leg, causing her to be unable to put her heel on the floor to walk. At six, doctors performed surgery, although she still has a minor limp and difficulty with balance. Carol could never run fast or jump high, but that didn’t stop the determined woman who first began to exercise in the early nineties. About five years ago, when she was in her mid-fifties, her yoga instructor was leaving and trained Carol to replace her. Later, after further training, she began instructing Pilates, and strength training classes. Students of all ages take classes from the knowledgeable fitness expert, although she admits she has limitations. Her message to her students is, ‘You don’t have to be perfect to do this. I might have a wobbly side, but that’s no excuse. I’m almost 60 years old—if I can do this, you sure can. No matter how old you are, working out is going to make you healthier, live longer, and happier.”

Angela Moorad

Nominated by Sharla Bardin

I am nominating Angela Moorad for Most Inspiring Teacher because of her passion for helping children with special needs and her willingness to try new things to help those children enhance their abilities. Angela is a speech-language pathologist at a hospital in Norman, Okla. that specializes in the care and treatment of children with developmental disabilities. Last year, Angela began teaching a therapeutic yoga group for patients at the hospital. She was inspired to offer the group after reading research about the benefits of yoga for children. In her yoga group, Angela modifies the poses to accommodate a child’s ability level. The sessions also feature music and storytelling. Angela also takes a moment during the sessions to focus on each child’s strengths. She believes it is important for children to hear that they are special and unique just for being them. I believe Angela is inspiring because she is helping children with special needs improve their breathing, balance and focus, as well as boosting their self-esteem.