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Classroom Hero: Dayatra Hales from the Academy of Urban Scholars takes being a 'coach' seriously

10TV teamed up with the Ohio Education Association and 97.1 The Fan to honor these heroes making a difference in the lives of children.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Dayatra “Coach” Hales was surprised with the news she was being recognized as a Classroom Hero, she was certainly surprised. But when she learned a student had nominated her, a few immediately came to mind for her.

And that’s because of her extremely close relationship with many of them. She works as a Title I coordinator and girls’ mentor at the Academy for Urban Scholars in Columbus.

“I’ve always wanted to be with the girls,” she said. “I treat them like they’re my daughters. Some of them even call me mom, and I just love being around them and teaching them how young ladies are supposed to behave, but most of all, make sure they understand that education is the key to any success that they’re going to have.”

Mania Crockett, 16, has certainly grown to understand that. She’s one of the students who call Coach Dayatra mom. And she credits her “mom” with being the reason she has stayed in school.

“If I could have like ten of her, I definitely would,” she said. “Because she’s just that person you will always want to go to like if something was wrong or if you felt like you wasn’t having a good day or if something was bothering you and you didn’t want to talk to anybody, you could just go to Coach.”

Keiara Smith, 18, described a similar journey with Coach. She admits the two had a rocky start to their relationships. But she now says, without her support and influence, she also would not be in school, now just weeks from graduation.

“She’s one of the ones who didn’t give up on me,” Smith said. “I remember my mom coming in here talking about something, I’m ready to give up on her, and she kept telling my mom, don’t give up, don’t give up, and she didn’t give up on me. And she kept me pushing till the end.”

Now Smith has plans to attend cosmetology school after graduation, and her future looks bright.

“She’s like one of the first teachers that have actually took the time out and actually told me to keep pushing, so I thank her for that,” Smith said. “She’s one of the teachers who don’t just teach. She actually takes the time to get to know you, get to know your story and actually keeps you pushing, keeps you motivated, because I used to be fighting and skipping, and she used to be like, uh uh, go to class. I’m not your friend, I’m not your teacher, but I’m like your mom. So I’m actually glad I have somebody like her.”

Seeing the difference she has made in the lives of her students keeps Coach Dayatra motivated. She said she once planned to only stay in education for 25 years. But she’s now in her 26 years with plans to see several students through to their graduation.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and I’m just going to say that our village here at the Academy for Urban Scholars is very, very strong,” she said. “I just love these girls. I mean, all of them.”

Each week, a Classroom Hero will be spotlighted on Wake Up CBUS. You can nominate teachers, coaches or any staff member who is making an impact.

RELATED: Nominate your 'Classroom Hero'