Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Surprise for Tyler

One of the great joys of teaching high school students at Heritage Christian School's Class Days is seeing students excel once they leave my classes. In addition to the students who report back to me how well they do in their freshman composition courses at San Diego State, Point Loma, Biola, San Diego Christian, UCSD, etc., several students have earned a "5" (the highest possible score) on their Advanced Placement writing exams. One student received a 790/800 on the writing portion of the SAT and was also listed among the "Who's Who Among America's High School Students" (an honor that I also earned in high school) and nominated me to "Who's Who Among America's Teachers" in 2005. And she's involved in the teaching of writing in her current job as well.

September found yet another writing student receiving honors. Last year I thoroughly enjoyed having Tyler in my Intermediate Writing class, especially as his mother drove him all the way to La Mesa from their usual Class Day in Clairmont in order to take my class. Tyler turned out to be one of the best writers I have ever taught. My one regret is that I should have moved him and one other student into my Advanced (Honors) Writing class.

Tyler's work was always extremely detailed and the result of much careful revision. While I became frustrated with several students who turned in rough drafts as their final product, Tyler e-mailed me often with revision questions as he prepared his final draft every two weeks. His research paper, completed according to the Modern Language Association format, truly showed his tremendous work ethic as well as his gift of writing: instead of turning in a five-to-seven page paper with a minimum of five sources as required, Tyler submitted a thirteen-page paper with thirty-three sources. And his topic wasn't a walk in the park, either: while other students turned in papers on "smart" houses, the Olympics, and toilet paper (I'm not making up the latter, believe me!), Tyler researched the possibility of molecular life on other planets besides Earth. His paper read like an article in Scientific American. Beautifully written, his paper provided an excellent example of clarity of expression while writing on an extremely technical subject. Even un-scientific I understood it. Miracle, that. :)

Did I mention the fact that Tyler is completely deaf? His mother accompanied him to my class and signed my lectures to him; I also provided him with a print-out of my lecture notes so he coud follow along easier. We occasionally had to work through some non-standard writing that was a result of his inability to hear the English language, but overall, he did exceedingly well in my class. I graded him hard, as I do with all of my students, which he seemed to appreciate.

Needless to say, I was quite willing to write Tyler letters of recommendation as he needed them, one of which was for a generous Nordstrom's scholarship. In early September, I received an e-mail from Tyler's mom, Sherry, stating that Tyler had won one of five $10,000 scholarships from Nordstrom's given in the San Diego area. Would I be willing to attend their Class Day in Clairmont to help surprise Tyler with the good news?

The Nordstrom people were incredibly nice and thoroughly enjoyed surprising Tyler in front of the student body of the Class Day. He smiled a self-deprecating smile and shook his head in disbelief as the Nordstrom people filmed his reaction. Present were his parents, his interpreter, his long-time speech therapist, and his favorite teacher (me). The woman from Nordstrom's above (I don't recall her name), thought it funny but was also slightly offended that the sign for "Nordstrom's" in American Sign Language is pushing one's nose into the air from underneath with a forefinger, like a snob. I thought it was hilarious.

The Nordstrom people had two video cameras going to film Tyler's reaction and also took photos of Tyler with his family (his mom Sherry with him in above photo). After filming Tyler in his classes, they filmed interviews with his speech therapist and with me as his "favorite teacher." I've never been "miked" and interviewed on film before, but as I gushed about what an extraordinary student Tyler is (all completely true, but probably embarrassing for Tyler), it went quite smoothly, so much so that the producer asked if I did this kind of thing often. :)

In addition to the $10,000 scholarship ($2500/year over four years), Nordstrom's also presented Tyler with one of those big fancy cookies. Isn't it beautiful? After the event, I wrote a recommendation for Tyler as he applies to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), his university of choice.

So congratulations, Tyler, on being a student of true excellence and a writer of integrity and discipline. In other words, your English teacher thinks, "You rock!"


Lona said...

Thanks for posting this today. In these times when liars and cheats flourish, it's nice to read about a hard working student who gets ahead...

Susanne Barrett said...

Thanks, Lona. Tyler really is such a cool guy. :)


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