Tierney was nominated for the honor by a former student, Will Smith, Willmar. Smith also received the Presidential Scholar award for his academic work. Each student receiving the award was asked to name a teacher who influenced them the most. Smith named Tierney.
"I was harder on Will than his previous teachers. He was an above average student who hadn't been challenged. He received "A's" too easily," she said. Will, in his nomination, said Tierney cared and challenged him to work harder.
"I think the most memorable teachers to students are those they have in their transition years...first, fifth, and twelfth grade," Tierney said.
Tierney and her 10-year-old daughter Sami, were in Washington, D.C. June 18 to 23 to accept the award. Vice president Al Gore addressed the students and parents presented the students with their awards. National Teacher of the Year, Mary Beth Blegen, Worthington, Minn., presented the teachers with their awards. One hundred and forty awards were presented during a special ceremony at the White House.
"The kids said the experience was real humbling," Tierney said. Of the 140 honor students, 61 are enrolled in Harvard. "These students are the cream of the crop. All had perfect SAT scores," she added.
Tierney said the teacher's presentation was changed at the White House from one site to another because the Olympic Torch arrived the same day. "It was real exciting for Sami to see the president and vice president and the Olympic Torch."
When talking with Sami, she thought it was great to be within six feet of President Clinton.
"It was great seeing Washington through my daughter's eyes," Tierney said. "We took the metro subway system and Sami had never seen a community so diverse with people from all countries."
A reading and advance English placement teacher in the Willmar school system for three years, Tierney is presently on loan to the Minnesota Department of Education. Tierney works with the education effectiveness program.
"I work with 44 school districts, helping them implement the new graduation rule," she said. Paynesville is one of her districts.
In her workshops, Tierney tells her teachers they need to care about what their students are doing in and out of the classroom and to challenge the students.
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