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By Amelia Orwick
When Orlando “Tubby” Smith was just beginning his career as UK’s head basketball coach, Mary Ann Vimont noticed his dedication to students.
Today Vimont is preparing for the UK College of Education’s fifteenth annual “Teachers Who Made a Difference” program, which was inspired by Smith’s act of kindness.
So far, the program has honored over 1,700 mentors, from kindergarten teachers to college professors, not only across the state of Kentucky, but across the nation as well.
“I thought, ‘Wow. We are the College of Education. We should honor people who make a difference,’ ” said Vimont, an associate professor in the College of Education, who considers the program “her baby.”
Around 120 teachers are honored at the annual brunch, which takes place at the Student Center.
Due to the fact that there is limited space at the program, there must be a cap on the number of teachers honored.
If there are more than 120 submissions, the submissions are kept and they’re the first to be honored the next year, Vimont said.
This year’s event will take place on April 27 from 9-11 a.m.
Each year the College of Education selects a spokesperson to help spread the word about the program.
This year Matthew Mitchell, UK Hoops coach, will be serving as spokesperson for the second year in a row.
Mitchell’s players surprised him by honoring him during last year’s program, said Margie Gallt, an administrator in the College of Education’s office of advancement.
Tubby Smith, John Calipari and Lee Todd have all served as spokespersons throughout the history of the program.
To honor a teacher, students can call the College of Education or fill out a free online submission form with their teacher’s name, address and how he or she made a difference.
From there, the College of Education invites teachers to attend the program.
If a teacher is unable to attend the program, they are still mailed a certificate.
“Everyone is honored. It’s not a selection process,” Gallt said. “It’s just a submission.”
Vimont spoke of one year when a 100-year-old woman was honored by 27 of her former kindergarten students.
“We don’t stop and say thank you to people until they’re gone, often,” Vimont said.
Submissions for this year’s program are due by Feb. 28.
“Most of the time, the thing that we hear the most is not that this person who taught them was the best,” Vimont said.
“They say, ‘They believed in me. They made me believe in myself. They encouraged me and I would not be where I am today without this person.’”