As a math teacher at Chaparral high school for seven years, I enjoyed the wonderful opportunity of getting to know hundreds of outstanding teenagers.  Because I was usually lecturing and answering questions, I was not able to learn much about the students’ backgrounds.  The bell would ring and they would be off to the next class.  In spite of this limitation, I still was able to identify some outstanding students, often by merely observing their interactions with each other and the faculty.  Yes, I must admit I developed a mental list of my favorites.

Editor’s note: this article was originally published on Meridian Magazine.

My inability to get to know more about the students’ backgrounds changed several years ago when the school administration started a new counseling program that allowed me to interview different students for about 20 minutes each day.

The purpose was to allow teachers to get to know the students better so that we could then offer suggestions and provide help where assistance was needed.  One of the students I had admired for several years was Amanda.  She was one of the most remarkable young women I had ever met.   I had not only taught her as a student but she also became one of my student aids.

Mormon High School teacher converted by students jennifer ludtke

Jennifer Ludtke – image credit

I watched with admiration how she interacted with others.  I noticed that she respected herself and was considerate of others. She was admired by all who knew her.  During one of our interviews, she mentioned to me about the importance of agency.   I thought that was an odd word for a sixteen year old girl to use.  In fact, I’d never heard a teenager use that word before.  Amanda explained to me that she used the word often, particularly with her family, and that it was an important part of her LDS theology.  She was just a junior in high school and I’d known her for three years at this point.

I was caught completely off guard by…

Read the original story on Meridian Magazine.