OCALA, Fla. — A student wrote to Spectrum News 13 to nominate a Marion County instructor as an A+ Teacher.

What You Need To Know

  • Marion County teacher Mary Timko was nominated as an A+ teacher

  • Her nomination pointed to Timko's dedication to her students, despite undergoing cancer treatment

  • Timko teaches environmental science at Lake Weir High School in Ocala

  • Discover more A+ Teachers here

They pointed to Mary Timko's dedication to her students even while undergoing chemotherapy for skin cancer. Timko says there's no other place on the planet she'd rather be than in the classroom.

"I love these kids — that I made a difference for somebody to write something like that, I can't begin to tell you or put into words how amazing I feel because of that," a tearful Timko said.

Timko teaches environmental science at Lake Weir High School in Ocala. 

"These kids give my life meaning," she said.

​She said something she was exposed to early on in life thanks to her parents really shaped her. They both worked at a juvenile facility.

"I was raised on the outskirts of this juvenile facility, so my whole life I was around kids in trouble and I just always wanted to help them," Timko said.

And she did when she got older.

"I started at a juvenile rehabilitation facility actually many years ago for court committed high school boys," she said.

It was lessons learned there that laid the foundation for how she approaches her students now. She says it's all about building relationships. 

"There isn't much difference between my current students and those students," Timko said. "I think people just want to know that you care about them before they want to hear you."

Timko said her students are hearing her loud and clear when it comes to science but they have a voice in the classroom too. She said collaboration is key. 

"Kids can teach each other so well," she said. "They can interpret what I'm saying into kid language — young adult language."

"Once you want to help people it just never goes away," she added. "This was like the perfect fit. "Why would I be doing anything else?"