As she opens the book of the day, Ms. Tamara Hunter leads her students in song.
“A person, place or thing is a noun. A person, place or thing is a noun. Like you or me, or an apple or a tree, a person place or thing is a noun.”
During her 16 years of teaching, Ms. Hunter says she’s strived to do more than just help students learn to read.
“I don’t care that reading is difficult for you. Your brain is fancy.”
You often hear Ms. Hunter refer to her students as “fancy brains”.
Third grader Ester Petithomme explains.
“Fancy brain is like your brain is super smart,” Petithomme says proudly explaining that she, too, is a “fancy brain”.
Ms. Hunter’s a reading specialist at Franklin Park Elementary School in the Dunbar community of Fort Myers.
She’s spent the last 16 years empowering students (or “fancy brains”), as she teaches them to take responsibility for their education.
“I don't care how old you are. I can teach you to read. It’s your job to treat your fancy brain like royalty.”
As Ms. Hunter makes her way around the classroom while reading a page out of Bippity Bob Barbershop, her students seem captivated - holding onto her every word.
As fun and engaging as she is, Ms. Hunter teaches students that clocking into their “job” is serious business.
“I get 30 minutes to work with them. So the students start to understand you will get your job done immediately.”
Hunter says the key to impacting children is getting to know them beyond the classroom.
“You build relationships with their parents, and you show that you genuinely care for them.”
Genuinely caring started from a very young age for the local educator.
Hunter lived on a military base in Norfolk, Virginia.
Her mom took children into their home, and that’s where she says her love for nurturing children grew.
“That became a passion for me. Because I wanted children to know that there’s always someone in your corner,” Hunter says.
She refers to her family, close friends and supporters as her “village”.
“We always had a huge village.”
A mom of 4 and wife of 22 years, Hunter says she’s now working to provide a village for her students.
Alongside her colleagues, she champions school events that encourage community involvement.
Those efforts include a “Black History Read-In”, and “A Gentleman’s Welcome” (greeting students on the first day of school).
The graduate of Norfolk State University and Saint Leo University, Hunter says she hopes these event help to change some perspectives.
“People would say negative things about the school, and the community of which it’s in. The best way to show someone what’s happening in your school to bring them here.”
Esther tells FOX 4 that Ms. Hunter gives “a lot of love” and that makes her feel “fantastic!”.
A feeling Ms. Hunter hopes all of her “fancy brains” feel for a lifetime.
“That’s probably why I’ve been here for 16 years because I’m going to love them forever.”