A (role)call for gratitude

Many students dream of making a difference in the world, seeking both individuality and originality in their future career paths. Schoolchildren are often consistently inspired by a group of individuals: teachers. Alongside parents, teachers have one of the most significant roles in raising a child. The relationship between a teacher and student is essential when establishing a solid academic foundation. Teachers guide students toward determining their paths while providing a secure and steady source of encouragement.

One infamous parental idiom is, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Schools exemplify this by employing a staff that will contribute to the growth of eager learners. Senior Megan Bober reflects on the supportive role teachers have assumed in her life.

“When teachers are responsive, nice and kind, they become a good person for students to look up to and learn from,” senior Megan Bober said.

“[Teachers] are the people that you seek when you’re growing up and who you look up to when you’re not at home with your parents. As school is so important, when teachers are responsive, nice and kind, they become a good person for students to look up to and learn from,” Bober said.

Alongside their responsibility as role models, certain teachers go the extra mile in molding intellectual and insightful thinkers. Redwood alum Katie Donick (Class of 2019) has been encouraged by the teachers who made an effort to craft personable relationships with students like herself. During Donick’s time at Redwood, she forged lasting connections with her teachers, including Mr. Hart and Ms. Kornfeld.

“Teachers that get to know you personally and treat students on an individual level, as opposed to the whole class or age group, are the ones that stand out. For some of my teachers, I would go out of my way to get extra help outside of class or come in at lunch, and these teachers have had a relatively big impact on my experience at Redwood,” Donick said.

A student’s role is meant to be more meaningful than simply walking from one monotonous class to another; their role is to absorb the knowledge of teachers who have immense experience in both the academia and real world. After high school, students apply their expertise to future careers and major life choices. Redwood alum Max Igou (Class of 2018) was influenced by his attentive teachers, who helped reshape the way he sees his future.

“Mr. Ippolito was my sole contributor in picking an economics major. I am also a math minor, and I really respect Mrs. Crabtree because she helped me discover my love for mathematics,” Igou said.

“Even though we were in distance learning, he made the class really interesting,” senior Rachel Mueller said.

Some students are given the opportunity to work with teachers for multiple years and are able to continue building their academic mentorships throughout this time. Senior Rachel Mueller had the opportunity to work with her science teacher, Mr. Lovelady.

“Mr. Lovelady was very open to any questions and would answer them thoughtfully. Even though we were in distance learning, he made the class really interesting,” Mueller said. 

Dating back to middle school, specific teachers who focus on maintaining strong connections with their students are significantly impactful. One of Bober’s teachers, Mr. Widelock, guided her through a school district change and challenging math topics in middle school. Although Bober graduated from Kent Middle School in 2017, her time with Mr. Widelock did not end there. In Bober’s sophomore year of high school, Widelock arranged for her and fellow student Lindsay Felder to tutor struggling students.

“I think [his empathy for struggling kids] definitely reflects who he is and how I saw him as a teacher when I was at Kent Middle School. He’s the type of person to help people, even when they’re not asking for help, whereas, a lot of other teachers wait for their students to ask for help,” Bober said. 

“A good teacher will believe in their students, connect with their students and know it’s going to be harder, but not impossible, for them to learn from you,” Brad Widelock, a math teacher at Kent Middle School, said (photo courtesy of Jill Klima).

Transitioning from middle school to high school, there are expectations for self-motivated learning that get lost in the intimidating size of high school classes and a larger student body population. Still, many teachers at Redwood have overcome these obstacles and continued their mentorship. Bober had a similar experience in building a personal relationship with teachers during her junior year with her AP Language and Composition teacher Dr. Fiona Allan.

“Dr. Allan is very similar to Mr. Widelock in the way that she would always be there for me in personal situations and would always be open to having kids in her room during lunch. She’s just an amazing person that had such a big impact on me during my junior year, and I hope to stay in contact with her for a very long time,” Bober said.

After students graduate, many have a chance to gain perspective and reflect on the teachers that stood out. Donick was inspired by her teachers’ dedication mentoring each of their students.

“The role is whatever the student or the teacher is willing to make it. I could see where that relationship could be more important if you’re coming from a place where you don’t have a lot of adult guidance. A teacher can definitely be someone to fill that role,” Donick said. “It’s nice to talk to somebody, [who] has seen you develop, as someone who had known me as a freshman and then saw me when I was working after high school.” 

After a year of uncertainty and Zoom screens, now is the time to shift the focus back to forming enduring relationships with our mentors, and it is crucial that we take the time to recognize the teachers that go the extra mile for their students, year after year. The previously mentioned Kent Middle school math teacher, Widelock, has helped students with foundational math through the challenging 6th through 8th-grade years.

“I always saw my job as being an advocate for children and young people, not for parents. I have those difficult conversations with both young people and their parents about where they are in their academic, social and emotional progress,” Widelock said. “In addition to teaching math, let’s embrace the arts. Let’s embrace the writer. Let’s embrace the child who’s passionate about science or dance. I’d say my work is about understanding the pinball machine effect of a life, where a small amount of help along the way in someone’s schooling could make a big difference later.”