Greensboro first-year teacher inspired by grandmother to teach

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Excitement and lots of nervous energy are some of the emotions students and teachers feel during the first week of school. Meanwhile, it's different for Amber Garcia. Garcia is a first-year first-grade teacher at Alderman Elementary in Greensboro.

"If I was at any other school, my nerves would be through the roof," Garcia said. "I am so excited to be here. I am so excited to be a teacher. It's everything I worked for."

So why isn't the first year teacher scared of a room with curious 6- and 7-year-olds? Garcia went to school at Alderman. In fact, she spent a lot of time at the elementary school.

"I was here every teacher workday, after school, grading papers," Garcia said. "I was doing everything younger than 5 before I was even in school."

You see Garcia's grandmother, Marie Farlow, was a teacher's assistant at Alderman Elementary. For 25 years, Farlow helped students learn their lessons. Holding a portrait of herself as a young girl with her grandmother, Garcia revealed more about her background.

"Now I have carried on the legacy," she said. "I am working at Alderman Elementary in the exact classroom she was teaching in using some of the material she taught with."

While Farlow's desk is no longer in the corner of the classroom, she is still in the room. Garcia wears a necklace with a heart-shaped charm attached. "Forever in my heart" is engraved on the charm. Inside, Garcia carries her grandmother's ashes. Also, Garcia keeps her grandmother's Guilford County Schools ID nearby. Garcia tears up a little as she describes what it means to have her role model so close.

"I have the ID as a reminder. No matter what troubles you are going through, you have to remember your goal and passion," Garcia said. "She instilled in me to take care of little children."

Farlow was Shawn Chamberlain's assistant. The now-retired teacher observed Garcia's class and said she has what it takes to be a successful teacher.

"I can see that see developed that instinct as well. Building relationships and connections is one of the biggest parts of teaching," Chamberlain said.

Joy Lehman is a teacher's assistant and worked with Farlow. Lehman said Farlow was creative, kind and great with kids -- the same traits Garcia possesses.

"All of the things you need to be a great teacher and person, I see in Amber," Lehman said. "She did a great job instilling those characteristics in Amber."

"I was always with my grandmother from the time I was little," Garcia said. "She instilled a lot of different values. She was more than a grandma, she was a mother figure to me."

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