By JJ Emons, Grade 12
Creating a safe environment for students is one of the most important elements of working in a school, and I don’t think that’s a bold opinion to have. There are some teachers that go above and beyond in meeting that standard and recognizing not only the needs but the wants of their students as well.
Enter Mrs. Passler, my British Literature teacher at Arrowhead Union High School. I write this essay as a senior in high school, and this semester of British Literature has been and will be my only class with Mrs. Passler. From the first day of class to the the very last, I know that I will always be safe and welcome within Mrs. Passler’s class.
In my senior year I’ve finally felt comfortable enough to present in class as someone I’ve wanted to be since before high school. I am an openly queer student who uses a preferred name and they/she pronouns—a change that did not come easy to me but was welcomed with open arms by many of my teachers.
The difference that Mrs. Passler has made in her classroom is that any student can tell they will be cared for, respected, and represented just by walking into her room. Along the walls hangs motivational quotes and posters, slightly-cheesy inspirational decor that you can’t help but smile at, a banner that shares different and colorful symbols of peace from around the world, and even tiny handheld pride flags tucked into her bookshelves. Walking into Mrs. Passler’s room gives any person an immediate sense of safety and compassion from the teacher.
Mrs. Passler doesn’t just go above and beyond to support her students by the physical environment she’s created in her room, her own curriculum incorporates and encourages the safety and well-being of her students as well. She starts the class off everyday with two slides in a Google Presentation, one as a mental check-in and one for the day’s lesson plans. These mental check-ins consist of breathing exercises, reminders to relax your muscles, and advice for students to get through the day. Starting class with a small and simple reminder really shows how much Mrs. Passler prioritizes her students.
Even being Mrs. Passler’s student for a short amount of time I was quickly able to see how much she really cares for each and every student. She lets her students know that her door is always open and that she is welcoming of any situation a student might be in. She’s not strict with deadlines and amazingly understanding and patient, a trait not a lot of teachers have these days. She allows herself to become a support system for each student, whether they need it or not.
Knowing Mrs. Passler is like knowing someone cares about you and wants you to know that you’re respected and represented. Having that classroom environment has made a world’s difference on me as a student, and I’m sure many others. Mrs. Passler is going above and beyond to show her support for the future generation, and setting the bar high for welcoming acceptance into not only her classroom but the real world as well. Thank you, Mrs. Passler.
By: Andy Mills, grade 12
I walked into school the week after first semester finals, ready for the last semester of high school. However, this semester was going to be more challenging than last semester for a multiple of reasons. Two of my classes in the first semester were electives, and the classes that replaced those were my last two English classes at Arrowhead. Unfortunately, they weren’t spread apart across the year. My English classes were American Literature taught by Mrs. Passler, and Creating Writing taught by Ms. Jorgensen.
Creative Writing, I think now that it is an awesome English class, I enjoy writing. No sweat about it. But, American Literature on the other hand, was not my forte. I didn’t enjoy reading, and was just taking it to complete my English credits for graduation requirements.
But that all changed the instance I walked into Mrs. Passler’s classroom. She was eager to teach us about some novels. But more importantly, she also had a serious conversation on day one about mental health. She talked to us about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. She talked to us about what she needs from us. She talked to us about what we needed from her. As we sat down and chose a seat, she gave us a notecard. On our notecard she instructed us to write our preferred name, our pronouns, anything interesting about us, and anything that she needs to know about us. She also let us know that these seats are not permanent and that she will create a seating chart later in the week and that if we need any accommodations to talk to her or shoot her an email if we prefer doing that.
Me being a quieter person, but also needing that accommodation, of sitting in the front of the room, near the board really helped me out. I was able to express all of my feelings on the notecard for anything she needs to know to help me out, and I was also able to email her regarding a specific spot in the classroom I would need to sit at.
What really stood out to me though was how Mrs. Passler cared about mental health awareness more than American Lit. She gives us access on her daily agenda slides to mental health hotline numbers. She also does Check in’s on the Google slides at the start of class each day—which consist of breathing techniques, meditation, posture checks, and relaxation techniques.
She has overwhelming support of each of her students, and is flexible and allows for extensions on assignments if we need it. This has been really helpful for me, because with my classes being harder this semester than last, and my increase in hours at work due to staffing issues and my promotion have really impacted my life. Getting up at 5:30, being at school by 7, and then heading straight from school to work, a 6-9 hour shift, and getting home at 10:30pm-11:00pm isn’t easy to do homework, and sleep.
I would really like to thank Mrs. Passler for all the hard work she does for her students in the classroom and outside of it. She is truly a unique and amazing human, and I could go on and talk all day about her charming personality. Thank you Mrs. Passler!
I was sitting in my first period class, American Literature, after waking up and forcing myself to come to school. It was my senior year at Arrowhead High School and more importantly the day after the Waukesha Christmas Parade. I fought back the urge to vomit and loaded up our test on my computer screen. I was about to hit start when I felt a hand rest on my shoulder.
I looked up to see my teacher Mrs. Passler, with the saddest smile I’ve ever seen on her normally sunny face. “Hey, Katherine.”
I couldn’t respond, not knowing what to say as I saw the tears begin to fall from her eyes, trying her hardest to console me as she was fighting to hold it together around the other students. We talked briefly, she checked in on me, excused me from taking the test that day and we cried together.
I’ve never been so vulnerable with an educator before, and I’ve never had one be so vulnerable with me. She understood exactly what I was going through. This is a gesture that I will never forget.
As the weeks went on after that event, I found it difficult to focus during my classes. With images replaying in my head I would find myself zoning out more than I was paying attention. However, there was always one class that I never had this issue in, I was always able to stay engaged in American Literature. I’m not exactly sure why this is, but I have a few ideas.
Mrs. Passler is an extremely animated person and her excitement about the subjects being taught translates to her students. The way she taught allowed me to focus on what we were learning. I could tell how passionate she is about what she teaches and that she really wants her students to learn and grow in her classroom. I also felt extremely safe in her classroom. She always has a very approachable, kind exterior and has supportive stickers and posters plastered around her room. It was something small that I noticed but put a smile on my face and made me more comfortable coming to class.
Mrs. Passler isn’t just an amazing teacher, she is also an enthusiastic club advisor, amazing mother, and reliable adult that I feel like I could speak to if I ever need help with anything.
Outside of her curriculum, she’s made me want to become a more compassionate person. I have a lot of anxieties that often show themself in a school environment. I know a lot of people that are the same and want to provide them with the same comfort and peace of mind that Mrs. Passler has given me. The lessons she has taught me and the kindness she has shown me will stick with me forever.
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