I’ve never been able to be myself in a class—not since kindergarten or first grade. So it came as a shock when I stepped into AP English Language and Composition (or AP Lang for short) on the first day of sophomore year at Arrowhead High School and I realized I could truly express myself. And it was all thanks to Mrs. Whitehaus.
Never have I met a more involved and passionate teacher. She encouraged ingenuity, nurtured creativity, and provided us with a safe space where, for 60 minutes every day, we could be ourselves.
Before class every day, a friend and I would talk to her about anything we liked. Billy Joel, Shawn Mendes, lame English memes from Instagram—she loved it all. Not once did she pass judgement or hinder us from staying true to ourselves. Even outside of her room, my confidence skyrocketed and I was no longer afraid to excel in school.
Aside from her caring personality, Mrs. Whitehaus has a talent for writing. Her in-class essay examples were incredible. Every word on the page was purposeful, contributing to a brilliant image that dances through the mind. Her dedication to the topics she wrote about developed the feeling her work created. I vividly recall her essay for Matilda Jane, a clothing line she is passionate about. She wrote to give back to the company for all they had done for her. The feeling left behind after reading it was like nothing I had ever experienced from ink on paper. The phrase “lead by example” is one that applies to Mrs. Whitehaus. She taught me to be concise, yet thorough—emotional, yet unbiased.
Mrs. Whitehaus, once she cares about something, refuses to give up and fights the right fight until the end. I have never seen a teacher care as deeply about students. Emma Mertens, an eight year old girl who attended a local elementary school, passed away on November 17th of 2019, due to an inoperable brain tumor. A few weeks prior to this tragedy, I was working in downtown Hartland when Mrs. Whitehaus came into the restaurant.
“I couldn’t sleep just thinking about Emma. I knew I had to do something,” she told me, handing me a stash of ribbons and informing me that she was hanging them up around town to support Emma.
I was stunned. Mrs. Whitehaus never knew Emma, yet here she was on a cold, dark night tying ribbons around street posts to support her. Her hands may have been freezing but her warm spirit kept her going strong. Her “lead by example” attitude taught me to fight for my beliefs more than any textbook ever could.
Thank you, Mrs. Whitehaus, for allowing me to be myself each and every day. The amount of love and kindness you radiate is something I strive to achieve, even if I never reach the bar you have set so high. As you have told me countless times, whether you knew it or not, please—never change.
My first impression of Mrs. Whitehaus was a fiery, redheaded English nerd who has an obsession with some guy named Billy Joel. My second impression of Mrs. Whitehaus was that she was a quirky Billy Joel Superfan that assigned meaningless books. Why else would she have started off Honors English 10 with The Scarlet Letter? Many students, including myself, came to the consensus that the book is barely comprehensible and is written in an encrypted form of English. I was resentful, however, I read the book and took notes just because I wanted to get a good grade.
As The Scarlet Letter unit progressed, something unexpected happened. I enjoyed going to class and enjoyed discussions. Mrs. Whitehaus resonated with her students. She knew in order to keep a bunch of rowdy teens interested in reading a book that was over 100 years old, she would have to make class interesting. She taught the book through unconventional, yet interesting and engaging methods. She had us participate in a mock trial which got us to think about the book in an analytical manner. We formed arguments, constructed rebuttals, and competed against our classmates to prove our characters were not sinful. I am confident I would not have learned as much from the book had it not been for the engaging and interesting learning environment.
Mrs. Whitehouse was the only reason I took AP Lang the following year. Although I did not necessarily enjoy writing and I did not think English was my strong suit, Mrs. Whitehaus’ classroom was a fun environment I wanted to come back to. I became accustomed to her groovy mannerisms such as “using our ED” (educational device). I loved how she would make us fudge for Christmas and share with us videos of the extravagant light show she has at her house every holiday season for her neighbors and other passerbyers. I learned what a jubilant, upbeat and creative woman she is all while learning to appreciate writing and reading.
Mrs. Whitehouse spent hours grading syntheses, rhetorical analyses and argumentative essays—helping shape me into a better writer. Mrs. Whitehouse pours her all into her students. She is the type of woman who reaches out to and wants to keep up with her students. She cares to know where they will be going to college and what their plans are.
After I did not do as well on the AP exam as I anticipated, Mrs. Whithause reached out to me. I know she cared and that she had confidence in me. She wanted to make sure my test had been graded fairly and that I had been given the credit I deserved for working so diligently in her class. Mrs. Whitehaus feels more like a friend to me than a teacher.
Thank you Mrs. Whitehaus for acting as a genuinely positive person. I still think you portray yourself as a fiery, redhead, billy Joel fanatic; But, I also see you as a caring women and role model. I am blessed to have had you as my English teacher for two years at Arrowhead and for the impact you have had in my education and my life.