Tara Bordeaux had given up on school.
She was bullied and her home life was hard. She had just turned 16, and dropped out of school.
But one of her teachers, Mary Kay Canon, wouldn’t let her go. Canon waited two hours at the McDonald’s where Bordeaux worked until the teen arrived to start her shift.
“She thought I was much more important than I thought I was,” Bordeaux, 40, said in an American-Statesman interview. “She let me know that she saw me, I was important and I was valued and needed to come back to school.”
On Friday, Bordeaux, the Lanier High School audio-video production teacher, was named the 2018 Texas Teacher of the Year and will represent Texas in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Bordeaux said. “This whole journey has been amazing…I’m honored to represent the district.”
Bordeaux, who was given flowers at the event held Friday at Bullock Texas State History Museum, turned around and gave the flowers to her former teacher.
It is the second consecutive year that an Austin district teacher was given the award. Last year, Ashley Allison, a third-grade teacher who devoted her career to bilingual education, was the recipient of the state award.
“We’re floored,” said Superintendent Paul Cruz. “Two years in a row for Texas Teacher of the Year in the Austin school district. We are so proud of Ms. B, and of Ms. Ashley, who won it last year. It goes to show the caliber of teachers we have who teach every day and have a heart for the kids.”
Bordeaux, who has worked in the district since 2013, dressed in a pirate costume on the first day of school as a way to disarm students and help them feel more comfortable. She got a surprise visit from Cruz, who announced she was a finalist for the award.
Bordeaux spent 10 years in Los Angeles, where she worked in television and motion picture production, before relocating to Austin to teach. She has dozens of credits as an editor, assistant editor and camera operator, among other roles, on such shows as “Criminal Minds,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Sons of Anarchy.”
During her time teaching, Bordeaux students’ work was featured in national advertising for Alamo Drafthouse, public service announcements televised on PBS, and documentary short films premiered at SXSWedu.
At the awards ceremony Friday, Bordeaux charged the other educators in the room with one thing: “Please keep teaching for them because I guarantee you, you are doing way more than you will ever realize with these kids. Because one day that kid might be up here or be the doctor who is being recognized for the neurosurgical procedure of the year or whatever it is. But that kid is going to be up here because of you.”
Marissa Torres, a third-grade teacher from the White Settlement district, was named 2018 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year. The Round Rock school district’s Allie Duffy, who teaches at Joe Lee Johnson Elementary School, was the Region 13 Elementary Teacher of the Year, and also was honored at the event.
Tara Bordeaux’s speech upon winning the Texas Teacher of the Year
“When I was a junior in high school, I didn’t think anyone saw me and I certainly didn’t feel loved. I was THAT student that we all talk about. I was that kid that didn’t even know where I might end up the next day and I dropped out of school.
But one person saw me.
And that was my chemistry teacher Ms. Canon. What I want everyone to know is that amazing woman who saved my life is right here in this room today. I don’t need to tell any of you guys how to go on to be great teachers or anything because you already are and you already know. But what I do want to make sure of is that 24 years later, I can tell Ms. Canon thank you. I might not have gone back to school and maybe I made a lot of mistakes but the one thing that went with me for my entire life is the words you spoke to me was that I was somebody and that I meant something to you.
So if it takes your kids 24 years to say thank you, please keep teaching for them because I guarantee you, you are doing way more than you will ever realize with these kids because one day that kid might be up here or be the doctor who is being recognized for the neurosurgical procedure of the year or whatever it is. But that kid is going to be up here because of you. Keep doing what you do because I’m honored to be in the room with all of you today.”