Four AHS students Win Teen Ink’s Educator of the Year Contest

Addrian Mendoza, reporter

AHS students junior Ryker Rathje, senior Cameron Scott, senior Laynie Walloch, and junior Elizabeth Stern all placed in Teen Ink‘s Educator of the Year Contest.


Elizabeth Jorgensen, AHS Creative Writing teacher wrote, “A huge congratulations to the overall winner, AHS student Ryker Rathje, who wrote an amazing essay about Mrs. Finn.”


You can view their essays here.


It can also be found here on Teen Inks’ official website.


Rathje wrote about Amy Finn from AHS.


Here is a short excerpt of Rathje’s essay.

At first, with Amy, I was kind of a steel trap. She’d get a couple of “mhms” and some shoulder shrugs here and there. A couple of times when she’d ask me a question, I’d just sit there with my eyes staring into space (mostly because I didn’t know how to answer or didn’t want to). She’d help me practice conversation by getting me to ask who, what, where, when, and how questions.


Stern, who nominated David Wagner from Merton Middle School is on page 24.

Here is an excerpt from Stern’s essay,

“Often, he would take a large part of our class time to pull our chairs into a circle, shoving the tables to the sides of the room so that everyone could fit. He made one person stand in the center, and randomly called on others to join them. They would each exchange compliments, and he required they cannot be about physical appearance. We would compliment each other on our hard work, the positive things we noticed that people might think go ignored, and it brought us together. It made us closer, and helped us grow as people to notice more than a pretty face or expensive shoes. I believe Mr. Wagner was so loved because he knew the value of teaching rather than instructing, and it was clear through everything he taught me.”


Scott nominated Cody Smith from the Prospect Training Academy on page 25.

Here is an excerpt from Scott’s essay,

“Shortly after my Seventh grade season I began to develop anxiety and depression. It gradually became worse and worse until it began to overtake my life. It became a long term issue that I even battle to this day, but Cody taught me something very important without knowing he would later become a huge part in how I deal with my mental health today. He taught me that I need to focus on something small first to accomplish a much larger goal.”


Walloch nominated Gustavo Chaviano from Arrowhead Union High School which can be found on page 27.


Here is an excerpt from Walloch’s essay,

“Mr. Chaviano always pushes his students to be better because he knows that they are better. We have long hours of Broadway rehearsals so that he can make sure that we are acing all of our dance steps and know every note of every harmony in the show. He has mastered the art of tough love and says the hard truth because we need to hear it. He sets the bar high but teaches us that we can meet it every day. When we hit the mark, he is sure to tell us how proud he is and celebrate our accomplishments with us.”


Chaviano wrote in an email to Jorgensen, “Thank you so much for sharing and doing this project with your students! You don’t even know how much it brightened my day to read those letters from Laynie and Reece. It’s easy to get bogged down in the many challenges of our jobs, but hearing encouraging words like this makes it worth it!”

Debra Paradowski, AHS Associate Principal, responded in an email, “I can’t tell you how happy this makes staff when they realize students have written about them. “


“Thank you for making a difference.”