Student Nomination Story

I’ve never liked art. It seemed pointless, stupid, a waste of my time. When I walked into Design Concepts on the first day of my Arrowhead High School sophomore year, I knew I would walkout at the end of the semester unchanged. This was just a credit on my transcript, nothing more. I took a seat in the back and the bell rang. The teacher, a middle-aged brunette woman, said something along the lines of “Good Morning, Class! Welcome to Design Concepts!” but to be honest, I wasn’t paying attention. Just keep your head down, do your work, and you’ll get through this with an A. It’s just one semester. But it wasn’t just an art class. Faulkner’s classroom was a safe haven, filled with the smell of clay and watercolors. She’s laid-back and inviting. I was myself for those first two periods of each B-day. Mrs. Faulkner makes me feel comfortable; I could joke with her and tell her anything. I eventually made friends with the people sitting next to me, and art class turned into a thing I enjoyed. I could express myself creatively, all while messing around and laughing. I stopped dreading school, because I knew that those first two periods were some of the best. She truly goes above and beyond for her students. She helped me get through struggles in any way she could. I went to her room to finish a project during lunch, and the habit stuck. She never knew, but the small action of opening her classroom saved me from the anxiety of the lunchroom and dealing with my eating disorder. But life started weighing on me more and more sophomore year; grades started to slip, and I didn’t feel like waking up in the morning. I didn’t want to go on anymore. I walked into my first hour art class and sat down with my friends, not saying much. She picked up that I wasn’t myself. I had given up. I think she knew for a while, but she understood today was different—I needed help. Now. “Alexxa, they need you down in guidance.” I looked up at the study hall teacher, my cheeks burning red as I grabbed my stuff. I was furious walking down, knowing immediately that Mrs. Faulkner was to blame. What does she think she’s doing? This counselor I have never met asked me, “How are you doing?” and I just started to cry. I stayed for the next two periods, sniffling and trying to talk through the pain. She listened and understood. I left that office feeling lighter, knowing that I could make it through this. If it wasn’t for Mrs. Faulkner, I don’t know if I would be here right now. She cares so deeply about all of her students and protects them like a mother. She pushes you when you can’t push yourself and she truly goes above and beyond. Mrs. Faulkner, thank you for caring when I thought nobody did.

Alexxa Vassar

As I sat on the cold, metal stool in the Arrowhead art room my sophomore year, I began to cry. The loads of stress washed over me and soon, I was a mess. I signaled I was fine to my friends; just a minor bump in the road. I looked away from the pottery wheel, making eye contact with Mrs. Falkner. At first, I wanted to do nothing more than run away. I hated confrontation and didn’t know how to explain what I felt. She directed me to the other room, where it would be quieter. I remember telling myself to look at the floor, so I wouldn’t cry again. I heard Mrs. Falkner shuffling around. She placed a box of tissues in front of me. “Are you okay?” That was it; the trigger I needed to start sobbing. I felt my eyes well up, while my body shook. She gave me a hug and we sat in silence until I managed to mutter a few, short words. As soft violin music played, I began to open up, trying to explain what was going on. She looked at me, listening, and gave me another hug. I wiped my eyes for the final time, and gathered my stuff to leave. I smiled and put my head down, as she watched me go. Two days later, I found myself in the same position, wanting nothing more than to throw up. I felt her warm hand on my shoulder, reminding me of the way my grandma used to calm me during an anxiety attack. “Do you need to talk?” It was obvious I wasn’t great at expressing how I felt, but Mrs. Falkner didn’t care. I felt safer in the four walls of her art room, than I did with any advisor I’ve had. She had a way of making all of her students feel important and loved. I had never had a teacher care for her students the way Mrs. Falkner did—and still does. I cannot name one instance where I didn’t value her presence. Her ability to express her admiration for not only her job, but her students, is why I appreciate her. I might not have said it often, but I was—and am—thankful for Mrs. Falkner. She dedicates her time and love to students to see them succeed. Along with enhancing my art skills, she went out of her way to ease my mental state. I think the main reason I admire her is because she didn’t have to go out of her way for me, but she did anyway. So thank you, Mrs. Falkner, for opening your heart, when I needed it most.

Lysie Balistreri

To see more exceptional teacher nominees, visit The Honor Roll.