Students share their appreciation for various teachers in the school
Taegan Talley — Mrs. Janet Thompson
Q: What class do you have with Thompson?
A: “Algebra 1.”
Q: How would you define your relationship with Thompson?
A: “I’m really close to her—it’s kind of funny to say. In the morning on B days, I usually go [into her classroom] really early so I can hang out with her. I can say that I’m friends with my teacher because we talk about stuff. She’s super fun to be around.”
Q: Do you go to Thompson for advice or just to catch-up?
A: “Yeah, we talk about our weekends and I ask her [about] ‘boy stuff’—which she teases me about. We’re close, I guess.”
Q: Do you think other students have similar relationships like the bond you have with Thompson?
A: “Yeah, she tries to be nice to everyone and doesn’t try for just a ‘teacher-student’ relationship but closer than that, so [her students aren’t] alone.”
Q: Has being close with Thompson affected your performance or experience in class?
A: “I feel like if [Thompson and I] weren’t that close, I probably wouldn’t enjoy her class. I see other students that aren’t close with her and they hate the class because they’re like ‘We don’t understand why [Thompson] is this crazy,’ but if you know her that’s just who she is.
[Being friends with Thompson] also makes me want to try harder [in her class] because I don’t want to disappoint her. She knows I can do more, so I always want to make sure I’m doing what I can.”
Q: What are some instances that exemplify Thompson’s qualities that you described before?
A: “There was the Halloween Dress-Up Spirit [Day last semester] and the teachers dressed up [on] ‘Horror Films Day.’ The math teachers dressed up as ‘The Children of the Corn,’ and I went to [Thompson’s] class early that morning and her and the other algebra teachers were getting their costumes ready. It was really hilarious [to] see her with the other adults because they were messing around and she was super happy and I got to help make her stuff—it was hilarious.”
Q: How would you define Thompson’s personality?
A: “I would say that she’s super outgoing, sweet and nice to everyone, and she understands people really well—she’s one of those teachers you can go to for anything. If something happens in your personal life you can go to her. I see other teachers that are [at school] to work and to teach students, and they don’t really have a relationship with them. [Thompson] tries to understand why a student is [the way that] they are—who they are.”
Q: What was it like being able to find someone like Thompson coming into freshman year?
A: “I moved to Columbia this summer, so I had never been to [Columbia Public Schools] or anything. So coming into the [new] school district with a teacher like her also being my first hour helped me get friends in that class and helped me get friends outside of the class, and she helps me get used to how the school district runs and how the grading systems work.”
Q: Is there anything that you’d like the school to know about Thompson that typical acquaintances wouldn’t know?
A: “I see that a lot of students hear that she’s a rude teacher because there are kids in our class who don’t try and she gets upset because she knows [that] they can do more. People think that she’s crazy, but she’s not—she’s nice—she just wants people to try harder and learn what they can actually do instead of [not trying.]
What she tells us is that we ‘Don’t suck at math,’ but we are taking longer to get used to it. Like when she’s like ‘You see people in your grade who are in Geometry or a higher [math] class, and it doesn’t mean that you suck, your brain’s just getting used to working [at the level it’s at.]’”
Meaghan Cone — Mr. Malcolm Smith
Q: How would you describe Smith’s personality?
A: “He’s definitely very sarcastic.
He’s got one of those qualities where he’s easy to be around and talk to, but he’s also someone who, if you [mock or make jokes about him]—dish it out—he’s not afraid to dish it out back to you. It’s fun… because if you have a teacher [that] you’re afraid to say anything around them and you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around it’s not as fun, but with him you’re not afraid to hang loose.”
Q: How did you get to know Smith?
A: “I was terrified [when] I took AP Physics  as a freshman and [because I] was the only freshman in my class. I needed help—obviously—right away, and so I went to him before and after school throughout the year. . . and I kinda just hung out with him before school and hung out with him after, asking for help on physics, math or just chilling out until my dad came and picked me up.”
Q: How has knowing Smith affected your social, academic and overall high school careers?
A: “I’ve definitely been [pushed more] to take classes I might not have before. I didn’t think I was academically inclined enough to take them, but he’s definitely pushed me towards those classes. I didn’t want to take [Precalculus] Honors but he was like, ‘No, you’re taking it’ and I didn’t want to take [Calculus] BC next year, I wanted to take AB [Calculus], but he was like ‘No, you’re taking BC,’ which in the long run I do enjoy Precalc Honors now and so I’m glad [that] I took it. So he’s just pushed me to take those steps that I wouldn’t [have] before. And he never fails to, even it’s a joke, [when I say] ‘Oh dang, I messed this up, I’m dumb’ he’s like ‘No you’re not’ and I’m like ‘I am’ and then he yells at me—which is nice. He just really pushes me in the positive direction.”
Q: Do you think knowing Smith has improved your overall confidence?
A: “[Smith has improved my confidence] because whenever I’m feeling dumb about some math problem, he talks about how ‘It’s a tough problem from a tough class. You’re going to get stuck, but you’re good at math, and you’re smart.’ That really helps.”
Q: What are some instances that exemplify Smith’s personality that you described before?
A: “…Well, there are the times when I walk into school and he never fails to notice my cheetah print, and I love cheetah print shoes specifically—I have a few pairs of different styled ones. Whenever I wear them, because I hang out in his room pretty much every morning, he’s always the first one to say like, ‘Hey, nice shoes.’ However, there’s also those times where I’ll walk in and I’m wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants and [I get] a ‘Why do you look like a hobo?’—which is nice—but I’m never afraid to throw it back at him. Two days ago when I walked in after school to his class and he stood up and I happened to catch what his belt said on the back and it said ‘MALCOLM,’ [Smith’s first name], and this was not expected so I had to throw out some snarky comment about that. But [that instance] shows that he’s not afraid to dish it out, but he’s always ready to take it back and it really improves his connection with a student.”
Q: What are some things that those who are typical acquaintances with Smith wouldn’t know about him?
A: “I would say that he has more than one side. So, as a teacher you almost have to look up to him as this godly figure who knows everything about everything, but he’s got a million different sides. He can be a confidence booster, but he can also be a person to ask opinions [from] or someone who—when you’re feeling too confident—[will tell you to] ‘Stop wearing that, you look ridiculous.’
He’s there for every mood you have. . . he’s not just science. He has other interests, too. If you know him more from [hanging out with him] before school or after school, you also learn about his wife, Peggy. You learn lots about her or his other family members or that he speaks French. He’s a person, not just a person who sits around and studies science all the time. He’s just as weird as all of us.”
Q: What differentiates your experience in Smith’s classes, where you’re close with the teacher, from others where you only know your teachers on a baseline level?
A: “Well I hated AP Physics , like I still don’t understand it, but I still liked coming to class, whereas with a baseline teacher you don’t learn as much because you’re not interested. You don’t feel like learning anything [and] you don’t have any fun in the class because you’re not caring about what your teacher says—you’re walking on eggshells around them [and] it creates a very different learning environment. With Smith, you’re walking into the classroom knowing you’re going to have multiple laughs during class, whereas walking into a class where [you only know] teachers [on a] baseline [level] you go ‘Well it’s another day.’ [Knowing your teacher well] makes the environment a lot more happy and engages you in whatever you’re learning, even if it’s just something that you hate.”
Q: Have you seen Smith reach out to other students like he has with you? How does his openness translate with others?
A: “Honestly—even when I was just starting to get to know him more before and after school—last year, I was like ‘Man, I’m such a special kid always talking to the teacher,’ but then I realize that no, I’m not the only one that’s like this [with Smith]. Walking into lunch, his [classroom] is always full. Even when you’re not [his] student, [Smith will take time to get to know you]. I have a friend who’s never taken one of his classes and he still knows her by name and is constantly making fun of her and she makes fun of him. And so, he’s always—even if you don’t know him or haven’t taken [any of] his [classes]—he’s there for you and he works to become more than just a teacher with you—[your friend]. I think he’s probably one of the more loved teachers at this school because he doesn’t pick his favorite students, he’s just happy to be around all kids.”
Q: If you were to write a letter to Smith about how much you appreciate him, what would you say?
A: “It’s kind of a one-point word, but he’s very kind and caring, but at the same time he’s fun and enthusiastic and he cares about what he’s talking about, and he’s still engaged [when teaching even] after who even knows how long he’s been teaching, probably since the late 80s—who knows? He’s one of those people where he’s one in a million and you don’t find [many] people who are that great at being social…he’s great with people, but he doesn’t abuse it.
He doesn’t try to win kids over. He understands ‘If they like me, they like me—[and] if they don’t, they don’t.’ He tries to make everyone like him, but he also knows that he needs to be an authoritative figure—but he’s not afraid to let loose and just hang with his students. He’s found the perfect balance of a high school teacher—that’s his thing—he’s found his balance.”
Ahmad Ennin — Mrs. Krisleen Arthur
Q: Do you have any instances or personal anecdotes that show how knowing Arthur has affected you personally?
A: “Most teachers [value] passion over pay, and Mrs. Arthur really lives that through. Not just [with] me [specifically, but with] everyone in the class. [She] tries to crack jokes to get them engaged [with learning.]
“I remember taking this test [over] conjugating [Spanish] verbs, but I had the flu and I was gone [the day of the test], but I had to take the test because I should have remembered [to study.] When I was sick, instead of studying, I was playing on a PS4 or doing everything but that. I come [back,] and I completely bomb the test. I [got] an F, the worst grade [that] I’ve ever had in my school experience. Some teachers I’ve had in the past, like in elementary [school,] have told me to ‘Shake it off. You should have studied’ or something like that. No, [Arthur] tried to make me feel [better saying], ‘See, it was probably because you were gone for [the test]. You still did good on these parts [of the test],’ and she tried to help me through that.
I also applied for the C.A.R.E. program, so I used her for my letter of recommendation. Most people who get one from a teacher [think] ‘Okay, I need something, I’ll pick any teacher.’ I read through what [Arthur] said [in my letter,] and it’s not that she did the letter late, but had the audacity to text me like ‘Hey Ahmad, can I help you? I really want to help you with this [because] I think you’re such an amazing kid’ and all that positivity and stuff.
Because I’m not a native Spanish speaker and just to know that I can be a freshman and to know that there’s a specific class every other day that I have with a teacher who honestly cares about me and wants the best for me [it makes going to a new, intimidating high school easier. It also makes me slow to assume all teachers are bad.] She takes the extra step, and that’s why I consider myself being so ‘buddy-buddy’ with her, and when you don’t understand something, she doesn’t just [tell you], ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ She gives you three or more different ways to learn, [and] she gives you links to [helpful] websites. You can come in [to her room] during lunch. You can come after school. She’s that resource for you.”
Q: Has getting to know Arthur affected your overall academic experience? Have you become more open with other teachers by being more open with Arthur or have you only familiarized yourself with her?
A: “Yeah. Because I’ve met a teacher like Mrs. Arthur, I automatically don’t assume that ‘Hey, every teacher’s out there to get you’ [or] that the questions they give you on tests [are] meant to trip you and warp your mind. She’s the standard of ‘good teacher’ now. [Now that] I’ve met Mrs. Arthur, I’m like ‘Okay, if there’s teachers like her, then I shouldn’t prejudge every teacher I have.’
Q: Back to your letter of recommendation, did Arthur send it to you late because she was personalizing it for you?
A: “Oh yes, it was the longest one I had.”
Q: How would you describe Arthur’s personality? The environment in her classroom?
A: “She’s the type of teacher who sees when [her classroom is stressed,] so she’s the one to crack a joke. I’ve yet to go through an entire [Spanish] class without laughing or giggling from something she’s said.
She wants [her class] to be very interactive, so she’d ask questions [in class,] and when none of us knows the answer she’d be like ‘If you can give me the answer give me a shout–quick!’ or something just to cheer people up.”
Q: Do you think other students have a similar relationships like the bond you have with Arthur?
A: “…I don’t know anyone in the class who isn’t [close to Arthur] because she wants to develop [a close] relationship with her students.”
Aubrey Sanders — Mrs. Nicole Clemens
Q: Who is Clemens and how do you know her?
A: “Mrs. Clemens and I have honestly not always been that close.
I was in her AP class last year, and I sat on [Chris] Fischer’s side of the room. I talked to Fischer all the time, [but] I was not very good at [AP Language and Composition (AP Lang)], so I was like, ‘Not for me.’
I started eating lunch in [her classroom], and she had a couch—which makes life better—and we first started talking about schoolwork and stuff that I was struggling [with]. She offered to help me, and I had never had a teacher genuinely care and talk to me outside of class about something, so that really had an impact on me. I started going [to her classroom during] my [Alternating Unassigned Time or] whenever she would have her planning period. She helps me out with pretty much anything I need.
[Clemens] gave us her phone number at the beginning of AP Lang, and I never actually used it until after I got out of her class. We get along so well, and we have the same sense of humor, and all I wanted on my birthday was a tweet from her because I just admire her.
She talks all the time about how she feels like she ‘can’t adult right.’ Just getting an adult’s perspective on ‘adulting’ has given me more confidence in leaving Rock Bridge. I’ve lived in Columbia my whole life, and I’m going to Kansas for [college], and seeing her side of the story—knowing that not everything is going to be perfect all of the time—has really helped me understand that going away is not going to be horrible.
It’s so nice to have somebody at school that, if I’m having a horrible day, I [can] just be like, ‘Clemens, I gotta talk. I need to rant,’ or if I just need a ‘mom-hug.’ My mom calls [Clemens] my ‘in-school mom’ just in case I need anything. Deodorant? [Clemens’] got it. Lotion, [perfume]? She’s got it. If you need anything—candy? Like a little pick-me-up during the day? She has everything. Whenever I’m feeling down, she’ll talk to me, or whenever I don’t want to talk she’ll just be there for me. She has honestly made a huge difference [in] my high school career. High school would have sucked a lot more if she wasn’t in my life.”
Q: How would you describe Clemens’ personality?
A: “One day I was really having a bad day. I woke up thirty minutes late, I was angry at the world, and I walked into her classroom and she was like, ‘Are you also having a bad day?’ and I was like, ‘Yes, are you? Girl—like—yes, let me tell you.’ We ranted back-and-forth to each other about why our days were bad. And then, later that day, we parted ways after that morning and I [had] received some bad news from my parents and I got really emotional… Immediately after I got the news, I went straight to her classroom and [said]‘Mrs. Clemens I need to talk to you.’ We went to a little room and I cried to her, she gave me a hug, cleaned off my makeup that was everywhere and told me that everything was going to be okay. I don’t know any other teacher [that would do the same]—they’d just be like ‘Go to the counselor, I can’t deal with your emotions’ or something. She cares enough to [say,] ‘Okay, we’re getting you out of this situation, breathe, calm down, let’s talk through it.’ That [day,] in my heart, solidified our relationship and I love her.”
Q: What are some instances that exemplify Clemens’ qualities that you described before?
A: “One day I was really having a bad day. I woke up thirty minutes late, I was angry at the world, and I walked into her classroom and she was like, ‘Are you also having a bad day?’ and I was like, ‘Yes, are you? Girl—like—yes, let me tell you.’ We ranted back-and-forth to each other about why our days were bad. And then, later that day, we parted ways after that morning and I [had] received some bad news from my parents and I got really emotional… Immediately after I got the news I went straight to her classroom and [said] ‘Mrs. Clemens I need to talk to you.’ We went to a little room and I cried to her, she gave me a hug, cleaned off my makeup that was everywhere and told me that everything was going to be okay. I don’t know any other teacher [that would do the same]—they’d just be like ‘Go to the counselor, I can’t deal with you emotions’ or something. She cares enough to [say,] ‘Okay, we’re getting you out of this situation, breathe, calm down, let’s talk through it.’ That [day,] in my heart, solidified our relationship and I love her.”
Q: Is there anything that you’d like the school to know about Clemens that typical acquaintances wouldn’t know?
A: “I think that just because [Clemens] is slow at grading does not mean that she is not trying. She’s just trying to give you good feedback and actually cares about what your grades are.
But all jokes aside… she doesn’t even have to know who you are and you can come [into her room]—people fall asleep on her couch all the time and she doesn’t even know [who they are.]
Her spirit is so freeing—it’s chaotic—but it’s real, which, we don’t really get exposed to a lot of because we were coddled throughout our high school careers. She gives it to you straight, and it’s made me a better person. I think that if you open up to her and let her into your heart then [she’ll let you into hers.]”
Q: Do you have any last minute comments about Clemens?
A: “I want to say [that] when she says, ‘Wants to strangle children’ she doesn’t mean it. I just love her and she deserves the world.”