Ten students across the state of Tennessee were named finalists in TN SCORE's Students Rise To The Challenge (SRTTC) competition this year, and RePublic High School scholars claimed two of these slots.
Both Ana and Larry wrote about teachers who have led them to love and revere the act of learning, and who have taught them about leadership far beyond the four walls of the classroom. Larry writes of RePublic High School's (and formerly Liberty Collegiate Academy's) Mike Elko: "...for the rest of life, this man, this inspirational man, will always be known as my hero - because he changed my life."
Below, we've included the entire text from Ana's essay:
"During recess, a girl sat silently, reading her book in her small corner of the classroom. While everyone else was talking and playing around, she was always there, fully immersed and lost into the content that she was reading. This girl is me. I never thought that my perspective and appreciation of literature could ever grow, but with one teacher, it grew immensely. Before 7th grade, none of my ELA teachers had ever pushed me to read books that challenge me or read books that went deeper than the surface. However, in the 7th grade, my ELA teacher, Mr. Ward, went above and beyond to not only increase my strength as a reader, but to also enhance my love for reading itself.
Before 7th grade, I only read sappy YA romance novels and manga. One day in 7th grade, out of my peripheral vision, I saw Mr. Ward scribbling away on a notepad while we were working independently. Afterwards, when the class ended, he walked over to me and handed me the note with a list of books on it, and told me a little bit about each book. My eyes were wide as he read the list to me. Jane Eyre and Sense and Sensibility? I wasn’t too sure about his recommendations, as I thought they were too advanced for me and were exclusively for adults. I was shocked that he thought these foreign novels would be a good match for me. I remember that on that day, I decided that I would start reading books that would challenge me. I started reading books like Flowers for Algernon and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and I realized that there were much more amazing books beyond mediocre YA romance novels. The books that I started reading had a deeper meaning to them, which made me think, and every now and then, question everything. For example, in eighth grade, I read a book entitled 1984, which made me stop frequently and caused me to really think about life, and how it must be lived. Mr. Ward continued to recommend books for me, and asked me about what I thought of each novel that I read. Mr. Ward challenged me to read challenging pieces of literature, which will be beneficial to me when I enter college, where I will be constantly challenged with difficult reading material that I will have to persevere through. In retrospect, I know this teacher, in particular, planted the seed that made me challenge myself with books that were very impactful in my life.
Mr. Ward also pushed me to do my best as a reader. This teacher was always providing feedback for my work and was recognizing times in which I grew. Towards December, Mr. Ward began circling the room, watching each student as they annotated. He stopped at me and told me to make purposeful annotations that would deepen my comprehension. I wasn’t used to the scribbles of information that I then saw as pointless, so all I did was underline and circle everything. He was always suggesting methods of annotating that would help me understand the material better. As time progressed, my annotations got better, and I was adding comments and summaries everywhere and circling words I didn’t know. He recognized this and told me that I was doing much better, and told this to the class. I couldn’t hide the smile that grew on my face the instant he said this, and I swelled up with pride. At that point, I was putting a lot of effort into my annotations and was actually absorbing the information. This will help me when I enter college because we will be given a lot of reading to do, and we must comprehend it in order to succeed in any class. In sum, Mr. Ward deepened my understanding of the novel we were reading, and endured my success in future classes.
Mr. Ward grew my appetite for reading as well as my approach in reading something. These two things have helped me in many of my classes, and will continue to do so throughout college, and really any job that I pursue. He has impacted my life, and has made me appreciate reading so much, and I will be forever grateful of this."
We are so very proud of Ana and Larry - and of the hundreds of RePublic educators who work tirelessly to forever change the trajectory of our students' lives.