Everything about Carol Hatten's classroom is focused on the future.
As an AVID teacher for Chisholm Trail High School in Fort Worth, she prepares her students for college, careers and community service.
That's why it meant so much to Hatten when a student from her past nominated her as an Excellent Educator.
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"It just humbles me," said Hatten. "It's just such a blessing to me that my students think of me when they leave here."
Nadia Estrada, who is both working and attending college full time, once sat in Hatten's classroom and said she's succeeding because of her.
"When I thought about quitting school because I financially just couldn't do it, I heard her in my head, 'Nadia, don't drop out of school,'" said Estrada.
In front of her current students and peers, SMU's Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. K.C. Mmeje, presented Hatten with a $1,000 check.
"All of us wouldn't be where we are today were it not for amazing teachers who poured into us," said Mmeje. "It's a personal pleasure of mine to be here and support an outstanding educator like Carol Hatten."
The check and 'Thank You' may be a surprise for Hatten, but it was no surprise to those who work with her every day.
"For someone who has already graduated and transitioned to the next piece of their life to say those kind things, it just speaks to the character of Carol Hatten," said Chisholm Trail Principal Walter Berringer.
"I would like to think I had a small part in it, but really it's them, and I'm just boosting and encouraging them," said Hatten.
Hatten teaches in the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District and said she planned to use the money toward planning college and career readiness opportunities for her students.