Appreciate your teachers

Jessica Spitz

The last issue of the Chronicle each year includes a senior supplement, and within the supplement, senior columns. Usually, the writers either reminisce about significant aspects of their high school careers, or they nervously speculate about the uncertain future.

When I found out about these columns at the end of my sophomore year, I knew immediately what I would write about when I was a senior myself: my teachers, and the profound impact that they have had on my life. I imagined publishing the piece and maybe, if I could get over the awkwardness of it, showing the article to the teachers who have been especially important to me.

I held onto this goal until last Thursday, when I learned that science teacher Jim Brink had died in a car accident.

Brink taught my chemistry class sophomore year, and he easily made the list of my favorite teachers at Harvard-Westlake. Though I think (and hope) that Brink knew how beloved he was within our community, his passing prompted me to write my senior column a bit early.

Brink was one of the many teachers at Harvard-Westlake whose influence has shaped me as a person, and I think it’s so important that my teachers know how much I appreciate them right now, rather than when I graduate in June. So, without further ado, I present my ode to teachers:

My teachers taught me how to be passionate. Watching my history teachers dive into detailed stories of the past and my English teachers stir up debate among my peers showed me how to channel my enthusiasm into compelling discussion.

My teachers taught me how to be resilient. Math has always been my biggest challenge academically; however, throughout all of my years at Harvard-Westlake, my math teachers have pushed me to understand concepts that I wrote off as beyond my level of comprehension.

They have been there for me when my walk of shame landed me in their office after a bad test, and they have been there for me to offer a high five when the unit finally clicked.

My teachers taught me how to question the world around me. From learning how to balance a chemical equation, to the intricate process of cellular respiration, my science teachers have shown me how to explore my surroundings. And maybe I can even explore them in a foreign language, thanks to my French teachers.

My teachers taught me to advocate for what I believe in. I have learned to be brave enough to speak my mind.

Most importantly, my teachers have taught me how to treat others with kindness and respect, how to learn not only from my superiors, but also from my peers, how to think critically and how to approach the world with awareness and excitement.

They taught me how to love learning in all forms, which is the greatest gift I could have asked for while navigating the often treacherous waters of adolescence.

I could continue this list endlessly, and it is for that reason that I hope we will all take the time to show our teachers how much we appreciate them. Even a quick “thank you” at the end of class goes a long way.

I will conclude this ode with a thank you to every teacher I’ve had at Harvard-Westlake. In one way or another, you helped mold me into who I am today.

Lastly, I offer a final thank you to Jim Brink, for exemplifying all of the best qualities a teacher could possibly have. I was so lucky to know you, and I learned so much more than chemistry during sixth period.