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Class of 2017: Teachers Who Made a Difference

Jordan Magaziner Steinfeld
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inspirational teachers

The Class of 2017 shares stories about teachers who have inspired them along the way. 

The Class of 2017 will soon head to college. Years from now, students may not remember a specific lesson that a teacher taught them in school – a math equation, historical date, plot of a classic novel - but they will remember the teacher that inspired them or mentored them.

As part of a survey to gather information for our annual “Where are they headed” article featuring high school graduates and where they’re heading to college, we included the question: Teacher who changed your life and why. Once again, the students’ responses were so heartwarming but too long to include in our print article. So we’ve gathered them all here for you.

Congratulations, Class of 2017, and thank you to all of the incredible teachers who helped along the way. To see where these high school grads are heading, check out the article. Also, find out where more local grads are heading - and contribute to, if you haven’t yet – our annual database of college-bound Buzz-area seniors. Comment below to share a teacher that made a difference for you, too.

Adalee Bagley (Bellaire High School): Mrs. Paula Pete because she was always energetic and super funny. Condit Elementary 5th grade and social studies.

Kate Balleza (St. Agnes Academy): Mrs. Robin Licato, my sophomore Chemistry teacher at St. Agnes taught me to love chemistry and showed me it's the foundation of all living things.

Alyssa Barrett (St. John’s School): My sophomore year at St. John's I had Mrs. Gara Johnson-West for history. She totally changed the way I felt about history. I used to see it as something that I just had to learn but never particularly liked, but after having her, I learned that history is really just the stories of many amazing individuals. She made me really enjoy history class, something very new for me.

Elizabeth Berquist (St. Agnes Academy): Ms. Stephanie Jones, West U. Elementary. She genuinely cared for each and every one of her students. She made sure that every kid knew they had a special place in her classroom. She was so positive and always was able to make me smile.

Reagan Bisel (The Emery/Weiner School): The teacher who changed my academic life would be Mr. Jacob Guidry, my math teacher at Emery/Weiner. I was never good at math my whole life and believe me, I was bad at it. Ever since having him as my teacher, my average in math class have only been As. His constant motivation and positivity keeps our class going. Thanks Mr. Guidry!

Lindsay Brink (Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart): In 11th grade, my AP United States history teacher Mr. Michael Horne showed me that learning can always be enjoyable. He was so unique and so zany that there was not one class I did not leave with a smile on my face, whether I didn't do well on a quiz that day or whether I was in a bad mood. He taught me that you can have many passions and that you can pursue whatever you set your mind to. He taught history while competing in storytelling competitions, performing in concerts, and leading many clubs alongside students. I found a passion for learning and history because of him.

Tori Brooks (Alexander-Smith Academy): My Algebra 1 teacher at T.H. Rogers, Ms. Angie Hayes. She helped me realize that I enjoy math.

Deborah Brown (Robert M. Beren Academy): Mrs. Carol Liberman, middle school English. She helped me develop my love of reading and writing into a skill. Even now, when I write for a newspaper, she always gives constructive criticism and advice.

Evelyn Clark (Incarnate Word Academy): Mr. Mitchell Mooneyham was my freshman English teacher at Incarnate Word Academy and I was fortunate enough to have him for Contemporary Literature my junior year and an English seminar my senior year called World In Motion. I would say he changed my life because he pushed me to be a better person and better student. He has always has seen the best in me and gives me encouragement and support. He is one of my favorite teachers of all time!

Benjamin Cohen (The Emery/Weiner School): The teacher who changed my life is Mrs. Sheila Roberts. She was my 9th, 10th, and 11th grade Yearbook teacher at Emery. She has always been someone that I can go to when I have problems with yearbook, need help in school, or just need someone to talk to or joke with. She introduced me to Yearbook and taught me everything that I needed to know in order to become Editor-in-Chief of the Yearbook. There isn't one specific thing that she did to change my life, but instead, her guidance and support throughout the years has helped me to become the student and leader that I am today.

Rylie Cohen (The Emery/Weiner School): Ms. Dubin (The Shlenker School) taught me how to read and tutored me and others all through elementary school and still supports me to this day. 

Caitlin Connelly (Bellaire High School): Kelly Quarles, 11th &12th Grade. She introduced me to photography and she has instilled a passion in me that will last me a lifetime.

Harris Cooley (Memorial High School): Mr. John Husted, my sophomore year chemistry teacher at Memorial HS. He was an awesome teacher with a good sense of humor and generally enjoyed what he was teaching, which made the whole class enjoy being there.

Catherine Craft (St. Thomas’ Episcopal School): Mrs. Suzanne O'Neil is one of the kindest and most influential teachers that I have ever had. She taught me AP Government in 11th grade and AP Comparative Politics in 12th grade. Mrs. O'Neil's courses were difficult, but I have never learned more and had as much fun as I did in those classes. She is the person who made me want to major in Political Science.

Greyson Crosswell (The Tenney School graduate): I will say that I have loved all of my teachers. They might not have liked me!

Paula DeAnda (Carnegie Vanguard High School): Mr. Tom Shahriari, my fifth grade teacher at Roberts Elementary, changed my life because he sparked my interest in science.  

Abdullah Dowaihy (Alexander-Smith Academy): Mrs. Margaret Waldner De La Garza, English teacher and principal of Alexander-Smith Academy who accepted me as a freshman in high school. Ever since that moment my life changed because i met the kindest people and studied under the best faculty of all time. Therefore, I learned many valuable life lessons thanks to Mrs. De La Garza.

Madeleine Flanders (Houston Christian High School): Without hesitation, the teacher who changed my life was the teacher who taught me to read, write about anything and everything, taught me phonics so I would always be able to spell even the most difficult words, taught me a new vocabulary word each day, held my hand as we formed each letter of the alphabet, always answered my questions with more questions, taught me to think deeply, to take responsibility for my own learning, taught me how to cut, color, draw and paint, taught me to use good manners, be curious, be patient, persevere, strive for excellence and approach learning with a vengeance. My love for learning was instilled by the best first grade teacher ever, my mom. Being a student in her first grade classroom at Dhahran Hills Elementary School in Saudi Arabia, changed my life. Thank you, Mrs. Mom Flanders!

Anna Glickman (The Kinkaid School): Mrs. Kate Lambert, my 12th grade AP Shakespeare teacher at Kinkaid changed how I view myself as a student of literature but more importantly as a person. She instilled a confidence in me and sparked a curiosity and love of learning and language I did not know I had. She can make anyone fall in love with Shakespeare and her passion for learning and life is truly contagious.

Bailey Hayes (St. Agnes Academy): I think that the teacher who changed my life the most would have to be Mr. Glen Fucik, a teacher I had in sixth and eighth grade at Saint Laurence Catholic School. I will admit that in the beginning of my "educational life" I was very misbehaved, I was disrespectful and definitely not a student who worked to the fullest of her potential. Mr. Fucik opened my eyes to the extent of my potential and made me see the amazing student I had the capability of being. He opened my eyes to the fact that I have the ability to be funny while being respectful, the class clown at appropriate times, and he gave me the ability to make school a place where I was not only educated, but I learned to love my education.

Lonzie Helms (St. Thomas’ Episcopal School): Mrs. Suzanne O'Neil, my 11th grade AP Government and my 12th grade AP Comparative Government and Speech and Debate teacher at Saint Thomas Episcopal. Mrs. O'Neil inspired me to become more politically active, triggered my political awakening, and always provided guidance and care along the way.

Abigail Hepburn (Houston Christian High School): Seventh grade: Pastor Adam Schwing taught one of my general subjects at a Grace School. But, on a retreat he told me that he had noticed how much I cared about each of all the other students that I interacted with every day.

Brittany Hitt (Bellaire High School): Mr. James Monaghan was my 11th grade Tech Theatre teacher who taught me that every dream is important.

Jacob Lawyer (The Episcopal High School): Mrs. Linda Donald, my Second Grade teacher at River Oaks Baptist School. She was the first one to actually see my future potential and helped me learn both how to study and how to not be as shy.

Ashlon Lusk (Bellaire High School): My first grade teacher, Ms. Sharon Nathans, from Briargrove Elementary is my favorite teacher. First grade is when you know how to read, but you're still kind of learning and we had a point system for how many books you read and you got more points for how difficult the books were. Competition really got me in to reading at a young age and I'm very grateful for that.

William Mason (Bellaire High School): One teacher who really changed my life was my eleventh grade Algebra II teacher, Mr. William Reynolds. He was extremely helpful, and an extremely effective teacher. He was always more than willing to provide patient and constructive help one-on-one, and went out of his way to sympathize with my specific situation and accommodate my needs and short-comings.

Meagan McAuliffe (Bellaire High School): The teacher that changed my life was my freshman biology teacher, Ms. Caroline Vu. She helped me realize that I liked science and made me want to go into a medical related field.

Eli Melendrez (St. Thomas’ Episcopal): My yearbook advisor Mr. David Graves has taught me a lot throughout the four years that I have been a part of yearbook at STES. In class we learned the basics of photography, journalism and design, but when I became more involved with yearbook my junior year and as editor-in-chief of the yearbook my senior year, he has taught me a lot about leadership and about meeting deadlines. These lessons have prepared me for adulthood and will be incredibly applicable as I pursue a career.

Ababu Mohamed (Bellaire High School): All the teachers played huge role in my life but Coach Brett Harvett, my track and cross country coach at Bellaire High school from 9-12 grade, changed my life.

Sydney Moore (Bellaire High School): Before I went into 4th grade, my math was awfully, but my teacher, Mrs. Schultz, (Condit Elementary School) taught me some tips and tricks and helped me learn to love math.

Hannah Moran (Bellaire High School): My fifth-grade English teacher Ms. Ollie Roy at Longfellow Elementary impacted my life on so many levels. She encouraged me and made me feel at home. She was an amazing teacher as well. Her lessons were always engaging and productive. I was fortunate enough to reunite with Ms. Roy six years later when she substituted for one of my classes during my senior year.

Ella Morgan (The Kinkaid School): Dr. Ed Harris has definitely changed my life as my teacher. He's taught freshman English, Economics (12) and AP Government (12) to me and I have never learned more about the world than I have in his class. He's the smartest person I know and besides just teaching us the basics, he teaches his students how to be real, genuine human beings.

Fernanda Nunes (The Village School): 3rd grade teacher Mr. Bean - Lincoln School (Argentina). He was the nicest teacher I have met and introduced multiplication and division in a fun 

Louis Oviedo II (St. Pius X High School): In my junior year at St. Pius X High School, my Theology teacher, Mr. Gregory Henderson, taught me how to break complicated material and develop detailed responses. This has helped me out a lot!

Kiarah Parrales (Incarnate Word Academy ): My third grade teacher, Mrs. Mary Walker, at Corpus Christi Catholic School. Mrs. Walker was old school and had the strangest games I had ever seen, but she encouraged me in school more than any teacher has and has had the most confidence in me.

Emily Pedrick (St. John’s School): It is difficult for me to select a specific teacher because I believe that every teacher has changed my life, whether in a big way or a small way. That being said, I had a teacher in both first and third grade named Mrs. Sarah Williams (Annunciation Orthodox School). Mrs. Williams always inspired me to set my goals high and to always believe in myself.

Isis Pinon (Bellaire High School): My 12th grade English teacher Dr. Jeff Waller at Bellaire High School. He respected his students and created and safe, creative space in the classroom. Really cool guy!

Katelynn Phang (St. Thomas' Episcopal): Mr. Brandon Thomas and Mrs. Amy Ernest (St. Thomas’ Episcopal) because they have always believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself. Also, they pushed me to be a better me always.

Jaret Prothro (Second Baptist School): I had Mrs. Susan Klingenberg (Second Baptist School) for sixth grade Earth Science. She was an incredible teacher and also an amazing friend that I will keep in touch with forever. She showed me how cool science could be and made it very fun.

Paige Robbins (Bellaire High School): The teacher who has changed my life most is Mrs. Jayne Snow. She is one of the Special Education teachers at Bellaire High School and even though she was not ever one of my personal teachers, I have learned the most from my time spent with her. I have spent the last four years in her classroom everyday watching and learning from her interactions with the class and individual students. She has been a role model and I hope to be as incredible of a teacher as she is.

Ginger Sanchez (Bellaire High School): This past year, I have had a government and economics teacher at Bellaire named Mrs. Natalie Christian. Wavering between several majors, her teaching style convinced me to major in education. I realized I could be a great teacher with an effective teaching style while still being fun, even in senior year!

Ben Schwierking (Bellaire High School): I had Ms. Ann Linsley-Kennedy at Bellaire for Geography in 9th grade and AP Environmental Science in 12th grade. As the coordinator of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, Ms. Linsley-Kennedy has worked tirelessly to help make my time in high school even more successful.

Abbie Seay (The Briarwood School): Ms. Holly Strapulos, my reading teacher, changed my life in elementary school (The Briarwood School) when she believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself.

Victoria Shelby (St. Agnes Academy): I had Ms. Veronica Rygh (St. Agnes Academy) for freshman honors biology and dissecting cats and doing labs in her class is something that solidified my desire to become a vet.

Alexa Spolane (The Emery/Weiner School): Ms. Nishta Mehra. I have known her since the eighth grade as my English teacher at Emery/Weiner, and she is currently my twelve grade teacher. She is so compassionate and truly loves her students and has the best intention for us to succeed not only in the classroom but as growing individuals.

Kate Steelman (Second Baptist School): A teacher who changed my life was my Junior Bible teacher, Mr. Brandon Alred at Second Baptist because he taught his class with incredible truth and insight. He challenged me in my faith and completely changed the way I read and study the Bible!

Allison Taffet (St. Thomas’ Episcopal School): Dr. Marcel Widzisz, 11th grade English (AP Language) at STE for convincing me not to give up my love for English just because I want to pursue a career in science.

Mary Kate Theroux (Incarnate Word Academy): Throughout my past two and half years at IWA there was one teacher who stood out to me: Mr. Charles Kafoglis. Mr. K (our nickname for him) teaches and organizes the multitude of leadership classes, and taught my seventh period Leading with Character class my sophomore year. I had just moved 1600 miles, had no friends in Texas, and was incredibly terrified of my new life. In this class, Mr. K taught me the values of going outside of my comfort zone & the power of leadership, and unknowingly gave me the confidence to be comfortable with myself. He's since taught me in a few other classes, and always goes out of his way to make sure everyone is smiling and confident.

Claudel Tilong (St. Agnes Academy): The person who impacted my life the most is my college counselor at Saint Agnes Academy, Mrs. Ashley Bennett. She is not one of my teachers, but she played a major role in my academic career from freshman year to senior year. Her faith in me that I could succeed and go to a great college is one thing I am thankful for every day.

Clarise Trinh (Bellaire High School): There's so many! Mrs. Anna Loonam taught my AP Bio class in 11th grade (Bellaire High School), and I ended up going on a school trip with her to the Galapagos during my senior year. It isn't often that you get a chance to explore the world and connect with an amazing teacher like Mrs. Loonam while also getting to see her wild side and have crazy, spontaneous fun. Mr. Jimmy Newland: Physics C in 12th grade (Bellaire High School). How does he make physics so fun? Beats me, but I love it. He's also just a really solid guy who cares about the well-being of his students and understands our stresses and struggles. Ms. Stacy White - my French, Broadcast Media, and Homeroom teacher in seventh and eight grade at T.H. Rogers. She understood my sarcastic side and I could talk to her about anything.

Sydney Wallace (Memorial High School): My seventh grade art teacher at Spring Branch Middle School, Mary Green, made a significant impact on my life by teaching me to be confident in myself and my work. She taught me that if I put 100 percent effort into everything I do, I should be confident in that, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Bracy Webb II (St. Pius X High School): Ms. Davis Hoffman, middle school History (Hoffman/Caraway). She changed my life because she was really down to earth and said what was on her mind. She also helped me with a friend that I was dating by giving me advice but not forcing anything.

Calvin Wong (St. Thomas' Episcopal School): I had an awesome chemistry teacher in tenth and 11th grade, Dr. David Castillo. Coincidentally, he was a Rice alum, and made me want to go there. Because he was really relaxed but also extremely productive, he made me really like Chemistry.

Be sure to read more about the Class of 2017 in our annual Where are they headed story and read about some of their funniest memories. Comment below to share stories about teachers who have inspired you, too. 

People in this article: 
Adalee Bagley, Paula Pete, Kate Balleza, Robin Licato, Alyssa Barrett, Gara Johnson-West, Elizabeth Berquist, Stephanie Jones, Reagan Bisel, Jacob Guidry, Lindsay Brink, Michael Horne, Tori Brooks, Angie Hayes, Deborah Brown, Carol Liberman, Evelyn Clark, Mitchell Mooneyham, Benjamin Cohen, Sheila Roberts, Rylie Cohen, Caitlin Connelly, Kelly Quarles, Harris Cooley, John Husted, Catherine Craft, Suzanne O'Neil, Greyson Crosswell, Paula DeAnda, Tom Shahriari, Abdullah Dowaihy, Margaret Waldner De La Garza, Madeleine Flanders, Colleen Flanders, Anna Glickman, Kate Lambert, Bailey Hayes, Glen Fucik, Lonzie Helms, Abigail Hepburn, Adam Schwing, Brittany Hitt, James Monaghan, Jacob Lawyer, Linda Donald, Ashlon Lusk, Sharon Nathans, William Mason, William Reynolds, Meagan McAuliffe, Caroline Vu, Eli Melendrez, David Graves, Ababu Mohamed, Brett Harvett, Sydney Moore, Hannah Moran, Ollie Roy, Ella Morgan, Dr. Ed Harris, Fernanda Nunes, Louis Oviedo II, Gregory Henderson, Kiarah Parrales, Mary Walker, Emily Pedrick, Sarah Williams, Isis Pinon, Dr. Jeff Waller, Katelynn Phang, Brandon Thomas, Amy Ernest, Jaret Prothro, Susan Klingenberg, Paige Robbins, Jayne Snow, Ginger Sanchez, Natalie Christian, Ben Schwierking, Ann Linsley-Kennedy, Abbie Seay, Holly Strapulos, Victoria Shelby, Veronica Rygh, Alexa Spolane, Nishta Mehra, Kate Steelman, Brandon Alred, Allison Taffet, Dr. Marcel Widzisz, Mary Kate Theroux, Charles Kafoglis, Claudel Tilong, Ashley Bennett, Clarise Trinh, Anna Loonam, Jimmy Newland, Stacy White, Sydney Wallace, Mary Green, Bracy Webb II, Calvin Wong, Dr. David Castillo

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