Student Nomination Story

Whenever I get a grade below my expectations I ask, what can I learn to make my outcome better for my next assessment? Mr. Witte, my high school math teacher says, “Listen, you need to change your response to the event to help you get the outcome you desire.” Mr. Witte is much more than just a Functions teacher and Girls Basketball coach at Arrowhead High School. He is a teacher of life to young adults to help them outside of a classroom. When I am in his classroom, I do not only learn about math, but also learn about to be a better person. Mr. Witte, or Coach Witte, may look like your average teacher: tall and lean and dressed in his dress pants, collared shirt and a tie to top his outfit off. But I can assure you he is anything but average. He has a contagious personality. With an energetic and outgoing teaching style, it is impossible to not pay attention in class. He makes it a point to walk around the classroom and have conversations with students. Mr. Witte makes sure he gives small gestures to students, because he knows it can make a students day—and it often does. Mr. Witte has interest in how the kids around him are doing. He takes time in his day to listen to how the class. Some days, if the class is lucky, he will talk about something called Stage Theory. He says there are five stages in life and you’re are always in one at any given moment and time. (Stage one: My life sucks, everyone else's life is going to suck with me. Stage two: This is terrible and I am going to blame it on someone. Stage Three: I am better than you. Stage Four: We are better than me. Stage Five: Grateful.) The majority of the class loves these conversations, simply because it allows them to take a break from math and because it gives them an opportunity to improve their lives. His energy is absorbed by his students, creating an environment where kids are able to feel comfortable to make mistakes. He always says, “Hey, you are better now than you were 15 seconds ago before you made that mistake. Take that mistake and learn from it.” This makes kids feel safe, because in other classes, I often feel as if a mistake would change your whole grade, but in his class you take and learn from it. Mr. Witte finds a way to relate math to how the brain reacts in different situations. My “bad responses” to an event may not be the best for me in that moment and time but Mr. Witte says I can learn the most from them. I remember when I got a quiz back and it was not the score that I wanted to get. I went to Mr. Witte and said, “I just feel like I am not getting the material and I am not going to do well in this class.” Mr. Witte looked me right in the eye and said, “Will, create a stage three or stage four environment for yourself. If you do that, your mind will open up and you will be able to learn from the the mistakes you made and be grateful for all of my red pen marks.” I really thought about this for the next few class periods. It was then I realized I can only get better if my mind allows me to get better. Mr. Witte, thank you for all of the Stage Theory conversations we have had. Thank you for always seeing the better response in a bad situation and being able to share it with people. Thank you Mr. Witte for all you've done for me and my classmates. Thank you for teaching us how to be young adults.

Will Lauterbach

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