By Ms. Uddin

Happy Monday!  It is time for the May Torch Recipient!

Thank you for passing on the torch to me, Mrs. Brown! It is truly an honor to be recognized by someone as hardworking, kind, sincere, and compassionate as you. Thank you! 

It’s my first year here at East High School, so I haven’t had a chance to interact or truly get to know everyone; but as Mrs. Brown mentioned, I have had the opportunity to work with five different amazing co-teachers (seven, if you count all my co-teachers from the beginning of year). Each and every single one of them shine in their own right. It’s when you have had a chance to interact with someone and see them work first hand that true respect grows. After thinking about it for a very long while, I have decided to nominate one of my co-teachers for this recognition. I would like to nominate Mrs. Pankow for the torch of the month.

For those of you who know Mrs. Pankow, you know right away that she inspires respect. This is one of the first qualities I noticed about her while working with her. Now you may be thinking…respect? Giving and receiving respect is the standard; but when I say Mrs.Pankow demands respect, I mean she sets high expectations not only for herself, but also for those around her. It’s easy to say you respect someone, but when you respect someone, you do not lower your standards, not for yourself or for anyone else. I work with Mrs. Pankow in a 12th-grade English classroom, and I can honestly say that I am truly amazed at how well she conveys this message to her students. Each and every single one of our students knows that they are held to the highest standards, and because they are aware of this fact, they strive to give nothing but their best and no less. We know what their best is, and they know what their best is, and there’s really no secret behind it. I have always heard of the term “senioritis” being associated with seniors, but I have yet to see this affliction with our seniors. Mrs. Pankow has this ability to make them want to give it their all, due to her own work ethic, her enthusiasm, sincerity, sense of humor, and her dedication to not only teaching, but to learning as well.

Amazing teacher that she is (which I’m sure many of you are already aware of), the reason why I wanted to nominate her has to do with how she handles difficult experiences in life. We’ve all heard the phrase, “when life throws lemons at you, make lemonade.” For many of us, myself included, it’s easier said than done. When life gives me lemons (and trust me it’s always lemons plural), I try to make lemonade, but there’s usually some tears mixed in there, and a portion of it (sometimes even half) spills over as well. Each and every single one of us has so many different experiences, memories, and emotions which makes it impossible for any one person to truly understand what we are going through, and maybe, no one will truly ever understand. However, the sad reality is that life doesn’t wait around for us to pick ourselves up. It continues regardless of how we feel. In the beginning of this year, Mrs. Pankow lost her father, and the way she handled everything was truly inspiring.

Everyone who speaks to Mrs. Pankow knows how much her family means to her, how much her father means to her. It’s the way she talks about them when asked about her vacation plans or when she slips in a quick anecdote during class discussion about equality and how her father helped others with the tricky FAFSA application. It can be seen when she mentions a quick story about him when explaining a certain context for Richard the III, or when speaking about the stifling heat, swimming pools, and her father’s happiness in knowing that his children could cool down due to his hard work maintaining the swimming pool. Her family is such an important part of her life, so when the news came of her father’s passing, it was heartbreaking. The way she handled the experience, however, was truly remarkable. Even in her time of grief, she continued to record lessons for her students and create sample essays for students to refer to. When she came back, she addressed her father’s death to the students, honestly spoke about her grief, and thanked them for their patience. It’s this honesty, this acknowledgement that it’s difficult, and this ability to show to our students that we can grieve, but we need to get back up, that amazed me. We may not all have the ability to be as graceful with our sadness and heartbreaks as Mrs. Pankow was, but Mrs. Pankow showed all of us that we have people who are waiting for us and who need us and everything we have to offer. We can be sad, and we can cry, but we need to get back up again for ourselves. This is such an important lesson for everyone, and Mrs. Pankow delivered this lesson to all of us with such grace and strength. 

I can go on and on about why Mrs. Pankow deserves this torch and everything it embodies, about how she is a true role model for her students and fellow colleagues, but this email will be much too long, so I’ll stop here. Please join me in congratulating Mrs. Pankow for the Torch of the Month! Congratulations Mrs. Pankow!!! Thank you for being such a great teacher and a role model!