Teachers build lifelong relationships with students and make subject material applicable to real life. This Teacher Appreciation Week, we’re celebrating our everyday heroes who balance teaching and leadership with getting to know students on an individual basis and enriching their personal and academic aspirations. Laurel Springs teachers leverage our online environment to break down walls and encourage their students to use the world as their classroom.
We asked science teachers Joanna Karet and Jennifer Taylor and physical education teachers Mike Pappas and Julie McCullough about how their favorite teachers impacted them and what impression they’re trying to leave on their students.
Real Life, Real Talk
Subject material comes to life in the classroom, but what about outside of the classroom? “I try to keep my students engaged by making science come alive. I like to help students see that science content applies to our real lives, rather than being just words in a textbook,” explains teacher Joanna Karet. Whether science, art, or French, the critical thinking skills that students develop during school exist well beyond the classroom.
Even electives like gym, photography, and public speaking mimic real life situations for students, helping them to understand themselves and their interests. Teacher Mike Pappas prioritizes making health more than a school subject for his students. “My students stay engaged because these courses are centered around real life learning and accomplishments. Best of all, my students are collaborating with their peers in discussion boards and we all learn from each other. In today’s challenging times, this support for ways to stay healthy is vitally important!”
Leading by Example
Mr. Pappas remembers his teacher, Mr. Mrzilkar, making social studies relatable through his students’ interests. “He had such a dynamic teaching style that included a great sense of humor, and he related the curriculum to real life learning. I became so engaged in the course because he took the time to know me as a student and related the social studies topics to my own interests.” By building relationships with students and investing in their personal and academic well-being, teachers break the barrier that often exists between the classroom and the outside world.
What students take away from school is greatly influenced by their teachers’ enthusiasm and passion for teaching different types of learners. Teacher Jennifer Taylor believes that her teachers, Coach Vail and Mrs. McGee, used their ability to connect with students to engage them. “The common thread between the two was they really took time to get to know me. They used tennis, history and math to teach me much more than just the subject matter. It was through their influence, I began to learn you get out of life what you put into it.” A teacher’s ability to make school personal and “real” develops dedication and curiosity in students.
Hard Work and Hard Inquiry
Teacher Julie McCullough hopes to motivate her students to create healthy lifestyles—a mission that grew through her mentor’s influence. “As my 7th grade girls basketball coach, Mr. Ball believed in me more than I believed in myself. As my love for playing basketball grew, he was the one to mentor me and say if you want to play in college, set a goal and go for it.” A lifetime of determination sprouts from a teachers’ guidance and active participation in the lives of their students.
Laurel Springs teachers realize that students lead dynamic lives outside of school and channel their passions into curiosity. “Fortunately, we live in a world that is full of distractions. My students have beautiful distractions in their lives! Laurel Springs allows them the opportunity to fully engage in these ‘distractions.’ In the science courses, students get to explore their natural curiosity about the world we live in. They get to pose their own questions and seek answers through data and observations,” explains Ms. Taylor. Beyond science, this type of exploration bridges the gap between what students learn and what students truly understand.
A flexible, interactive education also allows students to learn about and lead their own lives and perspectives. Ms. Karet is inspired by her high school biology teacher’s preference for hands-on learning. “My favorite teacher was Mrs. Cunningham who got me really interested in labs by having us get up, move around the classroom to conduct different experiments, and come up with our own ideas about what we were likely to see in our labs and why. She inspired curiosity in her students and got us really excited about science.”
Laurel Springs teachers rely on connecting with students to drive success inside and outside of the classroom. This success is crafted around a focus on hard work and exploration, two things our curriculum encompasses and enforces.