ABERNATHY, Texas (AP) — Keri Moore's most-used phrase as a child was, "I can do it myself."
It didn't matter that she was born deaf.
Now a math teacher at a middle school in Abernathy, north of Lubbock, and the school district's teacher of the year, Moore wants her students to live by that philosophy, too, she said this week.
When Moore was 2 years old, a doctor said she would never function in the hearing world, Moore's parents, Raymond and Martha Sue Lusk, said in a statement.
"We decided that she deserved the chance to try," they said. "Her innate intelligence, determination, strong will and ability to lip-read quickly proved that doctor wrong. Keri has always used her lack of hearing as a challenge to do better."
Moore is glad her parents gave her that chance, and it's ultimately the motivation behind her career choice.
"The last thing I want to hear is you can't do this," Moore tells her students. "If I can do it, you can do it."
Moore, 41, has undergone speech therapy for most of her life. Despite the doctor's suggestion that she be put in a deaf-only institution, Moore attended public schools in her hometown of Lockney and later Wellman, where she participated in basketball, track and cheerleading and graduated as the salutatorian of her high school class. She never learned sign language but focused instead on her speech and reading lips.
"I think my parents did a good job of making me feel as normal as possible," Moore told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (http://bit.ly/1neQv9m ). "I think a lot of people had doubts about me. My parents never said, 'You can't do that because you're deaf.' "
Moore began teaching in Abernathy in 2007 when her husband accepted the youth minister position with the Quaker Avenue Church of Christ in Lubbock.
Going into her eighth school year with the district and her 15th overall, she'll be teaching math and algebra to eighth-graders, including her son, seventh-grade math and pre-Advanced Placement math in addition to coaching cheerleading.
Moore said she likes math because it's visual and wants to change people's negative feelings toward the subject.
Even though she wears a hearing aid, Moore is careful not to turn her back to her students so she doesn't miss when they ask her a question.
If being hearing-impaired makes teaching more challenging, Moore said she wouldn't know. A self-proclaimed "tough teacher," Moore joked it may even be sparing her from hearing them talk about her.
Abernathy Middle School Principal Bill Black praised Moore's teaching abilities and her tenacity.
"The thing about Keri — she teaches bell to bell, Monday through Friday, 177 days a year," Black said. "She has very high expectations for her students as well as herself."
Moore is a learner herself and is always seeking best practices for her classroom, he said.
"She has gotten great results on the (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) test by teaching standards to an in-depth and rigorous level," he said.
Moore said she was shocked to be named teacher of the year, an award that came with a trophy and $1,000 from First State Bank.
"It hasn't hit me yet," Moore said when asked how she would spend the money. "Probably savings. My son is trying to convince me to put it toward his college fund."
But even though she's a little richer and it could be argued she's overcome more challenges than most, Moore feels she's just a regular person.
"I don't think my life is that interesting," she said. "For me, I am who I am. I don't know any different."
Information from: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, http://www.lubbockonline.com