TMC recognizes Acacia Elementary teacher Linda Anderson as a Legendary Teacher

When Linda Anderson turned 40, she got serious about getting fit.

She started walking and before you knew it, she was running short distances.

She was hooked.

The third grade teacher has since run nine marathons, including one up Mount Lemmon for her 50th birthday and too many half-marathons to count. She runs three times a week, including three miles on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and a longer 7 mile run on Saturdays.

She’s shared that love of fitness with students, serving for eight years as a Girls on the Run coach.

For her commitment to building health in her community, Tucson Medical Center honors her on Legendary Teacher Day, held annually the fourth Thursday in September – Sept. 27 this year.

Legendary Teacher Day

TMC selects a special teacher each year to honor on the day, which was established in 2014, is a tribute to teachers and a chance to reflect on those who make differences in the lives of others.

Anderson never thought she’d be a teacher. After a career in the banking industry while raising her two children, Linda began working in the children’s ministry at her church. That inspired her to embark on education studies.

“It’s a calling and I know I am exactly where I need to be, praise God,” she said.

Girls on the Run

When she learned about Girls on the Run in 2011, Anderson was able to combine her passions for teaching and for running. The youth development program teaches life skills, culminating in a 5k to build confidence and a sense of accomplishment in girls. This fall, Acacia has four coaches with two groups of 15 girls each.

Sylvia Brown, who serves as the TMC coordinator of the program, said she was honored to nominate Anderson. “Linda has been a consistent supporter of Girls on the Run, fully supporting the program and the mission,” she said.

As for Anderson, she said she believes in the purpose of the program.

“The girls are at such a pivotal age to learn these things. With third through fifth graders, they are still young, but their foundations are being set. There are things they’ll have to deal with and this program helps teach them and provide them tools to meet these challenges – whether they come next week or years down the road.”

Anderson recalls getting choked up at one year-end celebration, when one girl shared that the program “has changed my life. I was one of the mean girls, but I’m not anymore.”

“I can see girls grow into their own,” she said. “Some are shy coming in and they open up, gaining self-confidence.”

“I believe in the program and the impact it has on these girls. They learn they can do anything they want. They can make decisions on their own.”

This fall’s season, sponsored by TMC and UnitedHealthcare of Arizona, is just getting underway with the girls, who meet twice a week.

“Girls on the Run provides a tremendous opportunity for UnitedHealthcare to help support these Tucson youngsters as they learn to live healthier lives and to become strong, independent and confident women,” said David Allazetta, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of Arizona. “We salute Linda Anderson for the commitment she has made to their education and their transformation through running.”

The program also comes at a critical time, when peer pressure starts ramping up, Anderson noted. “The program teaches them to be healthy, not skinny, that they are worthy. We encourage them to see the beauty and self-worth inside of themselves, and we talk about the benefits of moving and taking care of themselves.”

An elementary school teacher’s life is busy by default. Still, taking on the added responsibility of being a coach is not a problem for Anderson. “It’s not extra for me. Its part of what I do. I look forward to it. It’s one area I can make a difference.”

“It’s really cool to watch them encourage each other. We encourage them to be the best you, you can be.” We don’t ask if you beat the other girl. We ask ‘Did you do your best?’”

“Then to see the sheer joy when they finish their first 5K run is so amazing,” she said. “Their smiles are as big as Texas.”


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461