Beyond a Favorite Teacher
The following post is from Jasmine Liu, who is a sophomore at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky. She and her partner recently took first place in the Public Forum Debate state competition.
You don't just walk in a class on the first day and say, "I think this teacher is going to change my life."
When I first met her, it was the beginning of my freshman year of high school, and I was navigating the halls by room number, making multiple passes through the corridors, wondering if the digits increased or decreased as I walked to the back. I latched on to a group of people I had met earlier that day, and together we stepped foot in the fourth ever class of my high school career.
I dropped my stuff down on a desk in the front row that seemed to have an inch or so taken out of one leg, leaving it in a hopelessly crooked state. The wobbling as I wrote really didn't help my anxiety. To be honest though, the teacher looked as nervous as the room of expressionless faces. She gave us a run-down of what we should expect from her AP Human Geography class, and reassured us that we were all capable of receiving 1's if we worked hard enough (which just so happens to be the lowest score on the AP exam's five point scale). A nauseous feeling welled up from the pit of my stomach, marking half concern and half regret for signing up for the class.
It wasn't until the second month of school that I could say that I had actually met Ms. Radun. By chance one day, my friends and I were talking during class about possibly giving speech team a shot. This was despite my being- probably without exaggeration- the most timid person in the room, when she happened to walk by and encouraged the three of us to come to auditions. From that day on, she took us under her wing, and I began to appreciate her as more than just a one-dimensional teacher.
As my debate coach, Ms. Radun has taught me how to stand in front of people with my own ideas, to disagree, but most importantly how to do so with respect (and correct information, of course). She took my old self, who was mistaken for mute on more than one occasion, and has shown me how to be self-confident. She has comforted me in my worst defeats, with her admirable patience, to listen to my long rambles of the last debate round play-by-play, and stood proud with my teammates and me in our victories. Ms. Radun without her trusty silver laptop is a rare sight, whether it's editing our oftentimes-late debate cases, or planning out our next class's activities.
As my human geography teacher, she didn't just show me how different the world is through language, religion, architecture and the rest of the standard curriculum; rather, she took it a step beyond and taught me how to understand, ask questions and propose solutions. I can remember a particular assignment where she assigned each of us a developing nation and requested that we write a ten-page paper on how we could improve the economic and social situations in those nations. The first day we went to the computer lab to research and type up drafts, the whole class grumbled, but I can recall her walking around to help us the days after and hearing several instances where students told her that it was actually really interesting to create these ideas so relevant to today's world.
In high school, it's easy to categorize teachers into those who control classes with intimidation and those who gave up years ago. Ms. Radun, however, fits into neither of these categories. I can't remember a single instance where she had to raise her voice to get things done, and I don't think that I'd be the only one to say that we all held a certain amount of respect for the care she put into making sure that we were receiving the best education possible. Ms. Katie Radun is beyond a favorite teacher or even a role model. She is an incredible educator and one of the most pleasant surprises I have encountered as a high school student.