The Best of West

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Upon opening the agendas of all seniors (or at least all seniors who have not yet burned their planners in a fit of senioritis-induced rage) one will certainly find a countdown scribbled in the corner of each week. Twelfth graders are noticeably impatient to move on—proudly sporting sweatshirts with college emblems and speaking primarily of which dorms are best. However, this transitional period is also marked by nostalgia and memories of the past four years. Particularly, we must acknowledge the people who have put up with our daily teenage angst and somehow managed to teach us to listen, seek knowledge, reflect on our own strengths, and finally to find joy in what we do—our teachers.

Based on a survey given to the class of 2011 that asked students to rank the most influential staff in our school, ten teachers rose above the rest: Ms. Botsford, Mr. Prothero, Mr. Senger, Señora Bravo-Kapper, Ms. Keppler, Mr. Woodworth, Ms. Marks, Mr. Mateske, Mr. Norstrem, and Mr. Zietlow. These teachers motivate students to learn at their highest potential while teaching students about life outside of the classroom. Each teacher brings so much more than a college diploma to the table and the ability to read powerpoint slides—they exult a genuine passion for teaching, participate in and lead activities outside the classroom, and are sincerely interested in the lives of students.

Such dedication and passion is inspiring to students, encouraging them to try their best in each subject area, even if it is no t a particularly inspiring area of interest. Mr. Mateske explains that he is “not afraid to be [himself] in front of [his] classes. […] when you aren’t afraid to have fun in class the students enjoy and remember those classes and those teachers most.” Sometimes, though, brutal honesty is also motivational for students. Senora Bravo-Kapper, known for her no-nonsense approach to teaching, explains, “I have high expectations for all my students and I want them to perform at their best.” When a teacher expects the most of a student, the student will most likely believe that it is possible to achieve at the highest level–both inside and outside of the classroom.

Participation in activities outside the classroom allows students to get to know teachers on a deeper level. Mr. Mateske helps Mock Trial and coaches baseball, Mr. Norstrem runs IBA, Mr. Woodworth coaches the Academic Decathlon team, Ms. Botsford works hard to plan Prom, Ms. Keppler advises CRASH, and Mr. Prothero advises FBLA, yearbook, Mini Business World, and is a Football Stadium Announcer. The list goes on and on. Such involvement in extracurriculars models to students that a life outside of the classroom may be balanced effectively with school work.

The most influential teachers are generally the ones who reach past the class syllabus and really connect with the students to teach about life and model positive relationships. Ms. Botsford stresses how important it is that her “students know they have someone who believes in them.” Mr. Prothero points out the importance of interaction between students and teachers, explaining “I enjoy working with students. Not just teaching them, but also getting to know them as individuals, and learning from them too.”

In twenty years we will inevitably forget the process of cellular respiration, the derivatives of trigonometric functions, the plot line of Catch-22, and how to conjugate irregular verbs in the subjunctive form. However, we will remember the people who guided us, encouraged us, and most importantly believed in us. Dear teachers, thank you for all you have done in the past four years. Love, the class of 2011.