By Michael Stadler, grade 11
It was my sophomore year at Arrowhead Union High School. My normal pattern had continued onto this year: start strong, miss a few assignments, fall behind, finish with a mediocre grade. At the time the worst grade I had was a C in advanced algebra. This wasn’t surprising, I had gotten a C in math every year starting with 6th grade. The same thing always happened and I eventually lost the motivation to even try completing all the homework.
My math teacher that year was Mr. Destache. Plenty of my past teachers (not all mind you) would stop going out of their way to help me after a while, only emailing me to remind me an assignment was due. I didn’t blame them at all for this, since it was only fair. If I put in minimal effort, why should they bother with me when they could help more deserving students. But as I struggled through the school year one thing became clear. That was not who Mr. Destache was.
It is not hyperbole when I say that Mr. Destache does more for struggling students than any teacher I have ever met. He was always available before school, and sometimes after school as well, if you had any questions. He would do everything from review homework, explain problems, and even re-explain concepts that we had learned in class. He even had a grading rule called the “there’s always hope rule,” to motivate students not to give up at the end of the year if they had fallen behind.
During the second semester, I went to meet with him because of my parents. They had found out about my homework issues, and I had gone in to get help with some assignments. I planned on it being a one-and-done thing, but he was extremely helpful. Nothing changed right away. I turned in some old homework and mostly went back to struggling. But even then he would ask me in class if I needed help with anything and would remind the whole class that he was always available in the mornings to help.
Eventually, I started going more. I needed help with some problems and he re-explained the entire process of how to solve them. After most quizzes or tests, I would come in to ask about problems I didn’t understand. He even came in early on test days. My advanced algebra grades started to improve, as did my other grades. I started being a different student, one who would come in early to ask for help, and one who did most of his homework. Was I perfect? No, not at all. But was it an improvement? definitely!
The last time I went in early was on the day of the final exam. I passed that test with flying colors. My final grade for advanced algebra was a B+, my best final grade in math since 5th grade. I had even managed to get at least a B in all of my classes. Looking back, I don’t think any of it would have been possible without Mr. Destache. He helped change both my grade and how I treated school.
I have heard plenty of teachers say they want all of their students to succeed, and that they will help any student who wants help. But Mr. Destache was the first time I ever truly believed it. The first time in years that I believed I could excel. So thank you, Mr. Destache. Thank you for making me believe again.