Since 2017, Charter School Capital has held an annual essay contest celebrating exceptional teachers. We call it the Dewey Awards, in celebration of Mr. Richard Dewey – a teacher who provided exceptional mentorship to Stuart Ellis, our founder and CEO. Every year we get a brilliant selection of stories written by students from charter schools all over the nation. We chose three stories as winners of this year’s context. But each of these stories is worth sharing.
This week we bring you a story sent in by Aida Reynoso, celebrating Ms. Harpal of Maria L. Varisco Rogers Charter School.
Growing up, I have always been a student that did not enjoy reading at all because I feel like books have too many words and pages in them. I would often find books I thought I was interested in just by reading the summary on the back, but then I would see that the book had 400 pages in it. I would feel anxious because of the number of words on each page, and I still feel like this as a college student but it does not worry me as much anymore.
My 5th-6th grade English, writing, and history teacher, Ms. Harpal, changed the way I felt about reading long books by using audiobooks in her class, making it easier for me to be able to read and enjoy books without feeling overwhelmed because the book had 400 pages. Ms. Harpal was one of my favorite teachers growing up and the first English teacher I had that really had such a positive impact on me. She would often reward her students with food for their great work, and one time I remember writing a parody to Oh Captain, My Captain by Walt Whitman and renaming it Oh Cookie, My Cookie. It was a poem about me eating a cookie and it traveling down my digestive system.
From that point on, Ms. Harpal noticed that there was something special about the way I wrote, and she never let my hard work go unnoticed. She was the first teacher who really noticed my writing abilities, and I am thankful for her commitment and hard work. I know she may have had more downs than ups in her role as a teacher, but if she hadn’t stuck with it, I would have never had the opportunity to be her student and receive significant enjoyment and knowledge from everything that she has educated me on.
The experience in HER classroom became one of the key reasons I really enjoyed going to school. She would make learning fun with music every day, and she always had an interesting story to tell in class. Ms. Harpal has been there for me and other students in a way that parents, family, and friends could not have been, and she has encouraged me to become the best student I can be, even now. I still use audiobooks till this day, and without them, I would never be able to read a 400-page book.
Ms. Harpal showed me not only how to become a better writer, but also how to succeed in life. Not only did she give me the right guidance to do well in the classes she has taught, but she prepared me to learn about Phillis Wheatley, Nikki Giovanni, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, and all of these other famous poets I remember learning about in her class when I was 10-12 years old, that I am now relearning as a college student in my English classes. She has had such a significant impact on my entire life, and I could not have been more appreciative of knowing her. I hope I can also have the same effect on my students one day when I am an English teacher myself.