The Relationship That Goes Beyond the Classroom
By Ashley Grund
Teachers: an essential part of the life of a high school student. Many Chappaqua residents love our school district for one thing in particular–outstanding teachers. The importance of the relationships built between students and teachers in high school cannot be stressed enough. Our teachers become not merely just the adults seen every day in the classroom, but mentors that have a lasting impact. This type of relationship may be rare for some students, but it exists in and throughout the Greeley community.
Senior Julia Fortier knows what it is like to have this profound connection with a teacher. Julia had Mr. Steven Houser from ninth through eleventh grade as both a history teacher and cross country and track coach. Sadly, this past school year marked Mr. Houser’s last year at Greeley after teaching there for 34 years. When asked to describe the relationship he has with Julia, he said that he and Julia have been “buddies since ninth grade.” The connection that they have emanates when they are together; Julia feels lucky to have had someone who has had such an impact on so many students throughout his teaching career.
Julia’s appreciation for Mr. Houser has grown both in the classroom and on track. She enjoyed the three classes she had with him and described him as a coach who is “very supportive and didn’t put too much pressure on anybody.” Mr. Houser recognizes that this relationship doesn’t come with every student. “It takes a special person that can go beyond ‘I have to do this for my next test.’ When this happens, it is extremely fulfilling, and it happened with Julia,’” Houser said, with a big smile on his face.
For Senior Noah Weissman, Mrs. Jacqueline Abair helped him to channel the confidence that was hidden within himself. As a sophomore in a freshman/sophomore English class, Noah took it upon himself to form relationships with the younger students. Mrs. Abair noticed this, and it is one of the many reasons she loved having Noah in the classroom. “It really impressed me how Noah welcomed the younger students,” beamed Abair. Noah was at first not a particularly strong English student, but always reached out for help, met with Mrs. Abair, communicated his ideas and eventually succeeded. “Mrs. Abair gave me the confidence I needed going into the peer leadership program tryouts. She noticed these qualities in me and knew that those evaluating me would be able to notice those qualities as well,” explained Noah.
Making a Difference
Mrs. Abair feels very humbled knowing that she has had an impact on Noah, and this relationship serves as a reminder of just how rewarding teaching can be. “Teaching is an honor, as is being able to work with children and knowing that you can make a difference,” she added.
Hearing both Julia’s and Noah’s stories made me reflect on the bonds I have had with my teachers. After freshman year, I discovered a unique opportunity in Greeley’s Chinese program. Since the beginning of sophomore year, I have been learning Mandarin Chinese and have loved every minute. People have often asked me, “Why Chinese?” The answer to this question lies in our teacher, Mrs. Ping Li, or “Li laoshi,” as we call her in class. Whether we are learning the correct way to say the tones on all the eccentric characters, or having a “culture day” with a Chinese food celebration, there is never a dull moment in class. As I approach my third year of Chinese with Mrs. Li, I am thankful for having such a great opportunity to learn this unique language in such depth and breadth. We are constantly reminded of the exact question that I often hear from all my friends: Why Chinese?
Mrs. Li tells us that our learning of Chinese will stretch beyond the doors of the classroom. Chinese opens the door for many career paths, study abroad opportunities in college and other opportunities that one would not otherwise be able to take on. Mrs. Li has also instilled confidence in me that I carry over into other areas of my life. She constantly reminds us that by learning Chinese, we are going to make a difference in the world.
No matter how students feel about their teachers, there are always those that we will remember and tell our children and our children’s children about. For some, teachers may even affect the choice of career path or courses in college.
When a student can finally get past some of the frustrations of the high school workload and dig deeper into what is really important, teachers are always there for them at the end of the day. They are the ones that make school more than just school, and turn it into something extraordinary and life changing.
Ashley Grund is a senior at Horace Greeley High School. Growing up, her favorite book was Goodnight Moon.