KNOXVILLE, Iowa -- There are plenty of lessons to be taught inside Tracy Dewitt's English class but there are also plenty of lessons to be learned.
“She definitely reached out and I decided it was about time I let somebody in and so I did and it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” says Jinni Dingel, a student at Knoxville High School.
During some of the senior’s toughest personal struggles, it was Dewitt telling Dingel she mattered.
“She has a really good knack for finding the kids that need her and allowing them to see that she does care,” Dingel says.
Dewitt has taught at the high school for four years and has been a constant source of encouragement for her students.
“I push them when they say they can’t do it. I know they can do it. Sometimes that`s all they need is a little encouragement,” Dewitt says as she wipes away tears.
Last week, the teacher was award the Golden Apple in front of fellow teachers and the student body.
“You guys are all super important to me. You all know that. I do what I can to make sure that you guys don`t fail but I should not be the one that gets the credit,” she told the crowd. “You guys are the ones that deserve it. You guys are the ones who work so hard and I don`t know what I would do without you.”
Dewitt says her success comes from making an intentional effort to get to know her students.
“Most kids want to be here. I like making that connection with them and hearing about their days and their lives and what interests them and tweaking what I do to hopefully grab more students and engage more.”
For example, every lunch period Dewitt opens up her classroom for students looking to talk about their day, study or to simply bond with other students.
Dingel who nominated Dewitt for the award calls her teacher, the most inspiring person in her life.
“I want to be an English teach just like her. I always thought it was just teaching facts and standing in front of a group of kids but that’s not what it is at all. You have to be personable, encouraging, and open to change.”