COLUMBUS, Ohio — Victoria Lacey is simply known as Miss Tori. She jokes that her students wouldn’t even know who she was if she used her full name.
Miss Tori has been a constant presence in the Linden community for years now. She works at the Linden Park Early Childhood Education Center and at the community rec center.
“I just wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I felt like that was my passion, even as a child, and I just followed through with it.”
Miss Tori is getting a lot of recognition for her work these days. She recently won the Ruby Tate Award and her colleagues also decided to nominate her as a Classroom Hero.
“Whether it’s getting coat donations to make sure that each child is warm in the wintertime. Whether it’s just supporting children at a game and being a face there, or being a face here each and every day at school to just have consistency in a relationship, that is Victoria Lacey,” said Rebecca Beard, the center coordinator for Linden Park.
Beard had high praise for Miss Tori and her crucial role at school and in the community.
“To have a consistent person that is there at the rec center, that’s there at school, that you feel safe with, it’s everything for these families when they’re going through times. When it doesn’t feel so safe, and you don’t know who you can turn to from day to day, to know that, "Hey, I know I can go to Miss Tori, I know her face will be there,” Beard said. “I know that she’ll give me a hug, a kind word, a fist bump, a high five. (That) means everything.”
Miss Tori recognizes the importance of her role in a community that has struggled and faced plenty of challenges.
“That’s my purpose here,” she said. “I’m here to be there for them, you know, the big auntie, cousin, grandma, aunt, mom, I’m everything. I’m Miss Tori in the Linden area.”
Now, the woman who wears many hats and has been working with children since 1997 is getting the recognition her colleagues say she definitely deserves.
"We don’t get to hear about those people that are making a difference. And she really embodies making a difference and being a change agent in the community, so I wanted to make her name known and give her that recognition," Beard said. "Because she does it humbly. She serves humbly without any recognition, without trying to get any accolades or honors, and sometimes you have to take the time for those people who are just trying to play the background, to show them how much they are appreciated."