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Inspirational Tampa science teacher takes on motherly role for her students

Cristo Rey High's Taryn Kendig teaches science
Taryn Kendig
Posted at 3:04 AM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 08:29:15-05

TAMPA, Fla. — There is a school so new in the West Tampa neighborhood, it won’t graduate its first class until next year. Cristo Rey High School will have one very proud science teacher when its students finally receive diplomas.

Taryn Kendig is making a difference in and out of classroom with every single one of her students.

Biology classrooms can be very interesting places.

"He's a ball python," say Kendig while holding the reptile in the back of her classroom. "You know I come here and it's like coming home."

I didn’t ask Kendig if she has exotic animals at home, because that’s not what she meant.

"Sometimes I'll just hang out with them on Saturday morning because they don't have someone that will invest time into them," says Kendig.

How many teachers do that?

"Not very many."

Any? I ask student Madeline Burns.

"No, not really," Madeline tells me.

"She makes French Toast casserole. It's great," Graciela Cordero, another student, says.

"It's really funny, it slips a lot," Kendig explains. "A lot of them call me Mama Kendig because they walk around and that's what they call me and I just answer to it now."

Kendig tells me she regularly takes her students to volunteer at Trinity Cafe or Feeding Tampa Bay, They also help clean up the Hillsborough River.

In fact, every student at Cristo Rey High volunteers. And every student also has a job after school. A serious job. Students work five full days each month with corporate partners in a professional environment.

"I have four juniors right now that are learning coding at JP Morgan," says Kendig.

Kendig says she went into teaching to change kids lives for the better.

"I feel like this is where I belong and this is where I'm supposed to be," Kendig says.

To actually see that change happen before her eyes is...