By Tia Lynn Ivey
Talia Waller arrives at Morgan County Middle School each day to do her part in educating the next generation.
This Black History month, Waller hopes her students, along with the rest of the community, will take the time to learn from the past to help steer the future toward a brighter course.
“I do feel that there is a value in learning about Black history and that people would benefit from it. As a country, we have to learn and understand where we have been in order for us to know where we are trying to go. The only way that I feel this would happen is by learning and understanding the entire history of America,” said Waller.
“Black History Month is a time that allows me to reflect on history as a race, culture, and historical moments. This is important because we are able to use this time to additionally honor and pay tribute to those who came and paved a way for us in both our country and our communities,” said Waller.
Waller shared how Black history was not a significant part of the curriculum in school when she was growing up. But thanks to her family and church, she was able to learn about the complex and diverse history of Black culture in America.
“As an adolescent, I could remember not really learning a lot about African-American history or our culture in school. It was always something that I wanted to learn more about, but it was not mentioned a lot in our textbooks. Most of the history that I learned about African-American culture and our history was taught to me through my parents and at church,” said Waller.
Waller took the lessons of the country’s history, the Black community’s history and her parents’ own history to build a life in the present defined by education, dedication, and community service.
The 28-year-old English Language Arts teacher and a nascent entrepreneur grew up in Morgan County and was mentored through the Morgan County Boys & Girls Club. As a student volunteer at the club, Waller got her first taste of teaching by helping younger students with their homework after school. She decided to pursue teaching as a career in college. After earning her degree she returned to her hometown to put her education in action. She’s currently in her fifth year at Morgan County Middle School. She’s hoping to invest in the lives of Morgan County’s middle school students the way the local community invested in her while growing up.
“Since I grew up in Morgan County and attended the school system here, I always had the desire to come back to teach in the very community that helped shape and mold me into the person that I am today,” said Waller.
Waller credits the Boys & Girls Club for introducing her to her life’s passion.
“Being involved at the Boys & Girls Club definitely allowed me the opportunity to explore my passion which was teaching and helping younger kids, and I was able to develop leadership skills,” said Waller.
Waller draws inspiration from Coretta Scott King, who carried on advocating for Civil Rights after her husband Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. Waller also looks up to former First Lady Michelle Obama as a role model.
But Waller’s main source of inspiration are her own parents, learning through their example to give generously, persevere through difficulties and always chase after her dreams.
“My parents have taught me what it means to have faith, determination in life, and how important it is to strive for goals,” said Waller.
By watching her mother, Waller saw the kind of woman she aspired to become, though she chose a different career.
“My mom has always been a strong, selfless, and an intelligent woman. As a wife, mother, and nurse, I have watched her love unconditionally, and take care of everyone in both our immediate family and extended family…I can definitely say that she always does what she can for others and expects nothing in return. Watching her throughout my life has definitely inspired me to be a better woman,” said Waller.
When Waller was a teenager, her father was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), but he never let the disease deter his love of life.
“ALS is a progressive disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The amount of faith and determination that he has shown throughout his journey has truly been inspiring. He has never let his diagnoses of ALS define who he is as a person.”
In addition to teaching middle schoolers, Waller recently founded a candle business to provide safe and all-natural candle products after learning about the harmful chemicals often used by the larger commercial candle industry. She is planning to open her own shop right here in downtown Madison.
“I own a natural soy candle company that was founded here in Madison called, Catherine Ann’s Candles. I decided to get into candle making when I began researching several harmful effects of candles that are made by several larger candle companies. I felt that it was important for people to be able to enjoy candles and not have to worry about ingesting harmful chemicals. This spring I plan to open my own natural candle store in downtown Madison,” said Waller.
To learn more about Waller’s blossoming business, visit catherineannscandle.com.