It's only been five years since soccer and basketball standout Annesia Faulkner walked the halls at St. Vincent Pallotti High as a senior.
Now the 2007 graduate is back as a full-time social studies teacher and is coaching both girls soccer and basketball.
But old habits die hard for Faulkner when dealing with some of her new colleagues as a peer and not a student.
"It is weird in a sense. They say, 'You can call me by first name.' But I say you will always be Mr. Walker or Mr. Diggs," she said, referring to Pallotti fixtures Steve Walker (athletic director) and Rick Diggs, the assistant principal for operations.
Faulkner, who grew up in Beltsville, graduated from the University of Maryland in December 2011 with a degree in history. She was a long-term sub last spring at Pallotti for a teacher who was on maternity leave and was able to land a full-time job when, she said, the enrollment went up for the current year. This year she teaches three freshmen world history classes and two senior classes, sociology and 20th-century history.
She said balancing academics and Division I athletics as a college student helped her as a first-year teacher. "I think that is what has really prepared me. They say the first year of teaching is so hard," said Faulkner.
Faulkner was a varsity assistant coach for the girls soccer team in the fall under coach John Russo, and is now the head junior varsity girls basketball coach and a varsity basketball assistant under Josh Pratt. Faulkner's JV basketball assistant is her younger sister, Emily, a student at Howard Community College and a former basketball and volleyball player at Pallotti.
One of the students Faulkner has in a freshman history class is Lauren Earp, a Laurel resident who is also a shooting guard on the JV basketball team.
"I was kind of excited" when Faulkner was hired, Earp said. "She loves family. She is big on that." In the classroom, Earp said, Faulkner is quiet but demanding.
"It has been awesome to have her back," said Lee Ann Elman, an assistant director in the athletic department. "She is a wonderful role model."
David Tenney, the religion department chair, wrote in an e-mail that he was excited to have Annesia back at Pallotti. "I see her athletic skill as an added bonus because she gets to have an impact on the kids as a coach as well in the classroom," Tenney said.
Pratt, who became the coach while Faulkner was in College Park, said Faulkner is "a
high-energy girl," and that being a coach who is also in the building as a teacher is a real plus.
Faulkner was a state nominee for the Gatorade national player of the year as a senior on the Pallotti soccer team. She was the 2006 Baltimore Sun player of the year after she led the Panthers to a No. 18 national ranking under former head coach Mike Vawter.
When she helped coach girls soccer this fall, Faulkner was also able to be a sounding board for players Ashley Wilkinson and Brittney Brown, a pair of seniors whom Faulkner feels have college potential. "I told them it is a huge commitment to play at any Division level (in college)," Faulkner said.
A former striker, Faulkner said she admires former Pallotti coach Vawter and Brian Pensky, her former Maryland coach who is now at the University of Tennessee.
"I want to model myself off of them because I think they are great coaches," she said.