Advising the next generation
February 19, 2020
A feeling of cheer circulates throughout the room at the staff Christmas party. With a wave of the hand, the room falls silent. It is now time to announce who won Teacher of the Year. He’s deep in thought, wondering who won when the sound of his own name snaps him back into reality. Student Council adviser Daniel Moser has won the Main Teacher of the Year award.
Moser has been working at the school for 18 years and found his place among the StuCo organization. Every year during December, the staff votes for one person to win the Teacher of the Year award. He was given the award at the staff Christmas party on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2019. This was Moser’s first time winning the award, and he was shocked when he heard the news.
“I’m very humbled and I feel very grateful I was elected by my peers to represent [the school] in being nominated as Teacher of the Year,” Moser said. “Everybody in this school does a lot of good things for this school. You don’t have to be a Teacher of the Year or even nominated for Teacher of the Year to know we do a lot of good things for this school.”
Moser spends the majority of his time helping students and planning events with his co-worker, StuCo adviser Allison Stamey. The pair have worked together for seven years. Stamey takes notice of his distinctive qualities, such as his hard work and dedication.
“He brings a sense of organization and strength,” Stamey said. “He helps a lot of people at this school. There are a lot of fun times just through our travels with the students, from taking the kids to Washington D.C. to taking them to summer camp every year [and] to Mo-Ranch.”
Students believe Moser has helped them grow into better people. One of his students, senior LISD Liaison Tara Truong, recalls how being in his class has changed her.
“[Moser] has helped me improve my leadership,” Truong said. “He holds us all accountable and that helps me become a better leader.”
Even with the huge workload in StuCo, the students and staff manage to have fun, according to Stamey. Moser tries to keep the stress of it low for him and the students.
“Between the two of us, we [have] 88 kids in second period, 90 students in third period and 20 in first period,” Stamey said. “That’s a lot of students to have under your name, [we also] work with those students. I think he deserves [Teacher of the Year], not only [because of] the number of students he has, but also his interaction with them and the way he helps them.”
Moser steps in and helps his students prepare for the future by showing them life lessons. He teaches his students to be kind to one another and he doesn’t judge anybody for who they are.
“In the position I’m in, I’m able to help out a lot of students, to step forward and help not only the students but also help make [this school] a better place,” Moser said. “I think the biggest [lesson] my students [can] learn from me is I don’t care what race you are, what sex you are, it doesn’t matter. You go out, you help people and have fun with them.”
Coaching English with love
The classroom vibrates with students’ screams. They yell their vocabulary terms in sync while pre-AP English teacher Emily Wallace waves her hands animatedly, leading their chants. The announcements sound to life, calling the class’ attention. Everyone hushes to a quiet whisper and listens absentmindedly. After her award for Killough’s Teacher of the Year was revealed, silence crept around the room, but seconds later the students erupted in cheers for their favorite teacher’s award. Teachers and students alike barged into Wallace’s room, congratulating and praising her for the accomplishment. Wallace grinned cheek to cheek among the crowd, her heart light and filled with joy.
Wallace is known by her students and co-workers for bringing life and energy into her classroom. Motivated by her competitiveness, she felt she could teach better than how she was taught. She invested herself in her work, putting in all of her love and spirit in order to teach her students well.
“When I got to high school I [lost] my love for English class because it became boring and dull, [but] I felt like I could bring my energy and enthusiasm into [it],” Wallace said. “Whatever job you have in your life, you’re going to have to speak to people, you’re going to have to write things, you’re going to have to read things. [It’s] such a relevant class for anything you do in life so I wanted to do it well and I wanted to do it for the glory of the Lord.”
Sophomore Haylee Rachlal, a previous student of Wallace, knew without a doubt \ Wallace deserved the award she was given. She witnessed Wallace’s kind spirit and positive energy firsthand and saw the effect it had in her classrooms and on her students.
“There [are] endless reasons that contributed to Ms. Wallace winning Teacher of the Year,” Rachal said. “For starters, she has the best attitude. She truly believes in her students and knows we can all get better. Not just [in] academics, but as a person too. She doesn’t just teach us how to properly write or analyze a reading, but she teaches us kindness and determination and shows us we really can do anything we put our minds to.”
AVID coordinator Shawna Werts works closely with Wallace as both teach ninth grade AVID together. She hears about Wallace’s teaching through her students and through the walls, as her booming voice bounces around the halls. Her students speak of Wallace fondly, showing the impact Wallace has on her kids.
“[She’s] deafening, because of the obvious decibel level in her classroom,” Werts said. “[But] she [also] silences the negativity and the doubts of her students [with] her love, her commitment to excellence, her smile and her patience.”
Rachal struggled with English because of her dyslexia. But Wallace worked individually with her, determined to make Rachal a stronger reader and writer. Rachal improved drastically with Wallace’s help and started to see Wallace as more of a friend than a teacher.
“I would always give up,” Rachal said. “Ms. Wallace made sure I didn’t do that. She is the reason I’m at the reading level I am today. She pushes all of her students to do their best and she truly believes we can get better if we push ourselves. Ms. Wallace and I have almost a best friend type of relationship.”
Wallace strives to go beyond English, wanting to teach students the importance of kindness and character. She aspires to administer these traits by treating her students with love, hoping they will learn by her example. Wallace encourages her students as writers and as people, handling her students with the understanding and respect they may not get in other classrooms.
“Someone told me recently I don’t just teach English but I coach English,” Wallace said. “I want my students to be smarter, [but] most of all I want them to be young men and women of character, that they spend their life doing small things with great love.”
Rewarding the desire to help
The moody attitudes from the students, as well as the stress from papers that must be graded and returned can be too much. The burnout leaves no motivation to get up in the morning to teach. All of it dissolves when she looks at the award by her desk, a reminder that all the work she has done was noticed and received recognition by her co-workers. It gives a sense of achievement and fills her with motivation during those rough days.
English ESL teacher Carolyn Pedrazine was awarded Harmon’s Teacher of the Year, her first award in her six years of working at Harmon. Voted among the teachers to decide who receives the award, Pedrazine was shocked and honored to receive such a prestigious award for her teaching.
“I think one of the reasons [I won] is because I help people on campus [and] I try to help the other teachers,” Pedrazine said. “It is such an honor for my fellow teachers to say they think I do a good job or they believe in me and that I’m helpful.”
Her inspiration to become an English teacher came from the movie “Dead Poet Society,” where an English teacher attends an all-boys boarding school and leaves a positive impact on his students, but they also leave an impact on him. Pedrazine hopes she leaves a positive impact each year with her new students as they do the same with her.
“When students bring me gifts they made or something like that, [it] always makes me feel really special,” Pedrazine said. “Students who made paper flowers [for my classroom] or who have brought me things from their country [make] me feel part of who they are.”
Since meeting at church 10 years ago, English ESL teacher Holly Genova admires Pedrazine’s dedication to teaching and the commitment to work compared to other teachers. Together they work as a team when the other needs help, always having each other’s back to create positive learning experiences for their students.
“[It’s] rare in today’s world that somebody wants to help and has that desire in their hearts to truly help others,” Genova said. “I like that we both have a passion to work with ESL students and it shows in how we work together. We always work together to do what’s best for our students.”
The countless memories Pedrazine has created with her students always stay with her, but among her favorites are the ones where students bring a gift from their cultures. To her it symbolizes trust and an offer to be a part of the student’s culture and life, making her feel special and included.
“She expresses herself so well with us,” freshman Mariana Aleman said. “There are times where she comes [when we’re having a bad day] and asks if you [are] OK. It feels good to feel someone cares about you.”
For 22 years, Pedrazine has been a teacher, greeting her students every day and helping them achieve success in class. Even as her patience is lost or the feeling of burnout sometimes plagues her day, she enjoys being a high school teacher and is thankful for the award she received.
“I have two pieces of advice [for new teachers],” Pedrazine said. “The first one is [they] have to take care of [themselves], especially that first year. The second thing I would say is [for them] to not forget [their] goals, not forget why [they’re] doing what [they’re] doing and hopefully that will help the students be the best they can be.”