Name: Stephanie Weltz
School: Beaufort High School
Subject: Spanish 2, but I have taught every level from Spanish 1 to the higher-level International Baccalaureate Spanish classes
Years working in the schools: Seven in Beaufort County, 12 years total
Most cherished gift from students: They say that teaching is a noble profession, but I believe it is a calling that, if answered, can be humbling, rewarding, inspiring and life-changing. My students are everything to me. As teachers, we get small tokens of appreciation, from cards to gift cards, the occasional piece of candy or even on a really rough day, an energy drink. Trust me when I say they are needed at times. Last year, the Battery Creek High School Delphis staff dedicated the yearbook to me. It was one of the greatest honors I have received to date. At Beaufort High School, I am the recipient of the occasional "shout out" on the daily announcements, and students often stop by my room just to say hello. I cannot explain the adrenaline that flows through me as I lead the BHS pep rallies, cheer in the stands or coach my team to victory. On senior night at athletic events, it warms my heart to hear that I am my students' favorite teacher. However, the most cherished gift comes in terms of personal growth.
The most challenging students can often yield the greatest rewards. For example, I once had a student who was exceptionally bright, but behavior was an issue for this young man. After four years of tears, struggle, parent conferences and after-school tutoring, the young man graduated and went off to college. He visited me the year after graduation and told me of his success in college because of the preparation that he had as a result of my class. This was the first time I truly thought that the struggles of being a teacher and the lost sleep were truly worth it. An International Baccalaureate Diploma recipient who gave me many a gray hair in Spanish class is seeing great success at the university level. His dedication and determination is an inspiration to me as I work toward a Ph.D. A student who began the year stating that she was not at all interested in my subject matter went on to major in Spanish and is considering becoming a teacher. As imitation is the highest form of flattery, I cannot help but smile when I think of all the times I heard her tell me that she couldn't do it, when I knew that she could and did.
Of all of the stories in which I have had a part, the biggest return on investment has been that of my time. By taking the time to visit students at their jobs, athletic events and extracurricular activities, I have been able to see a side of students that I would not be exposed to in any other way. As a basketball and volleyball coach, I have been able to interact with even more students over the years, and I would never have imagined that what I said or did would so heavily impact the lives of others. I keep a folder with notes and cards from parents, students and fellow faculty members to remind me of the rewards of my calling. The imprint that has been left on my life by my students is something that I would not trade for anything in the world. I am proud to be a teacher and prouder still of the accomplishments of my students.