The following speech was delivered by Amen Mesfin – a 2015 graduate of Atascocita High School at the Humble ISD Teacher of the Year Banquet. It is an example of the fine students our public schools are graduating.
The key to a successful education is not only having a focused mindset, but surrounding yourself with a strong system.
Every one of the facilitators impacted me by providing me with mental and emotional support. Teachers that I never had a class with had prepared me for the next step in my life. I have had teachers that pushed me constantly to exceed my limits and prosper.
Family was one of the most humbling experiences at Quest. Having a teacher whom I could trust with anything and who was able to understand my school life held me together through hard times and stressful moments. Every teacher always had an open door and an open mind to listen to student needs as well as teaching them the curriculum. I am proud to speak about those who truly inspire me.
My name is Amen Mesfin and I was born in the heart of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. I lived in Ethiopia for six years and my father moved to the United States. Although it was hard, my mother, my younger brother, and I managed for three years as my dad fought to bring us to America. In 2006, I moved to Nashville, TN straight to an ELL class as a standard policy for one year. My English had exceeded every teacher’s expectations due to the fact that I had prior knowledge from a private school in Ethiopia. However, adjusting to a new society was a struggle. There were new principles and laws to society that I needed to learn through experience.
After just two years in Nashville, my father had a job offer in Houston which got me there in time to start middle school. I vividly remember being so lost in a big school with numerous children in the large classrooms. It was a struggle for me to fit in because of my cultural values, appearance, and extremely shy nature. I changed middle schools for my eighth grade year to Woodcreek Middle School.
In that time of my life, I started realizing the importance of getting involved so I joined the cheerleading squad, thrived in orchestra, and joined clubs. Regardless, I never stopped feeling like an outsider. That was until I became a part of Quest Early College High School. They celebrated differences like no other school. In fact, there was an international festival that is held every year organized by the Multicultural Club. The facilitator of that club and freshmen English teacher, Mishka Douglass, is one of the most phenomenal educators I have ever had. Although her class was tough, she never said no to help me with any issues at all. In fact, she would stay late after school and early in the morning just to read an essay that I had written for her class. She always told me that every rough draft gets better than the one from before. On a cultural aspect she understood my values and disciple more than anyone I ever had.
Another person that greatly impacted my life was James Nerad. He stayed with me as I cried about the cruelty of life and gave me advice on how to shine. Mr. Nerad didn’t just teach me classroom lesson, but also life lessons. He taught me how to be strong and the value of my individuality. Mr. Nerad reminded me that there was more to life than just grades. Furthermore, he pushed me beyond compare to be an excellent version of myself rather than just average. I remember him assigning his first assignment and me freaking out because there were no guidelines. He wanted us to use our imagination. I did something that I never knew I could I painted on a canvas the feelings brought out in a book.
Then there was also Barbara Yeatmen, my family facilitator for two years in high school. She represented everything that a second mother would be like. More than anyone, she encouraged me and presented me with the true meaning behind thriving. She got me involved more in school and encouraged me to be an ambassador. If it was not for her, I would not be able to stand in front of people today and speak. She helped me find a voice in the world.
Then there is the impact of Leonor Calderon. One of the hardest teachers of all time. She pushed us constantly to do the impossible. I remember one time that I went to her classroom tired of all the work done.
Gina Grimes, who was able to join us today, is the teacher of the year. Her impact on every student at quest has not gone unnoticed. I remember a specific instance when I approached Mrs. Grimes stressed because I was so close to an A in her class. Instead of looking at the grade aspect she went through all my previous tests with me. She taught me that it was not about the grade, but about mastery of the concept she wanted to get across. I ended up with an A in her class because I understood the material from start to finish. It takes a lot for a teacher to put together a curriculum in a way that every student can comprehend. Mrs. Grimes looked at every aspect of learning whether it be visually, verbally, or auditory.
Teachers work so hard to get students to where they are and there are not enough words to express my gratitude. There are many more that made an impact in my life and I will forever be thankful.