I is for Influential

Students highlight influential women at LHS for Women’s History Month.

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Students look up to other strong men and women in their community for inspiration and influence. There are many influential women and role models around the world, but there’s also a group of women at LHS who influence their students.

Counselor Nikki Duncan

Photo by Arianna Gonzalez

After going through meetings and answering staff and student emails, counselor Nikki Duncan starts with a open mindset and is ready to start the day. Duncan brings a positive light in her students’ lives, including junior Deborah Nash.

“Mrs. Duncan has always showed me that you should never feel afraid when you have a team of good people rooting for you,” Nash said. “She showed me that, no matter how many times you fail, there is always a way to correct your mistake and she has given me a second chance on an educational level.”

Duncan’s positive attitude has been with her every step of the way, especially on her journey of becoming a counselor to help and support students.

“When I was in elementary school and in high school, I felt like I could have been listened to more and I always had a passion for helping others,” Duncan said. “I knew I wanted to help people and I really wanted to be a doctor. In college, I realized I was skittish around blood and luckily, I was in a psychology class and really liked the material. That lead me to become a school counselor.”

Looking back on her triumphs, Duncan shared that all she has completed was possible because of those female role models she had growing up, such as her old professors and softball coach who helped her pursue what she loves. Here at LHS, Duncan makes sure to help students whenever necessary.

“Anytime students have questions or concerns I listen and try to be empathetic and to not judge or assume because I don’t think that’s right, and I wouldn’t want someone else to do that to me,” Duncan said. “I also try to be me. I feel like I’m a very positive and outgoing person, so I try to spread cheer and love.”

Duncan recognizes as a counselor the issues women go through today – even at LHS – and how important they are.

“I think that as a nation, women are doing a great job with speaking out and making their voices be heard,” Duncan said. “Also, women are speaking out now more than ever in regards to sexual harassment and abuse. I think that in our society, sometimes it’s hard for women to speak up because we are embarrassed, ashamed, or sometimes feel like people won’t listen to what we have to say. With continued support of one another, I have high hopes of women for the future.”

Social Studies Teacher Ellen Meade

Photo by Kaleigh McCarthy

A well-rounded teacher can connect to a room full of students all at once without having to attend to each student one by one. This is exactly what social studies teacher Ellen Meade does.

“I noticed she teaches very differently from every other teacher I have,” freshman Gabe Baldaia said. “She is able to make the lesson fit every single person, and she makes sure to broaden the subject so everyone benefits.”

Meade’s deep passion for teaching would make many assume she knew she wanted to be a teacher for most of her life, but this was not the reality.

“I kind of fell into teaching actually,” Meade said. “After I graduated college I was trying to decide what to do with my career and in the meantime, I decided to sign up to be a substitute teacher to pay the bills. As I was sub-teaching I met and ended up marrying a cute middle school teacher and my teaching career naturally evolved from there.”

Although Meade somewhat stumbled into teaching, that does not make the connect between her and her students any less real.

“I think it’s great to have people like Ms. Meade who you can look up to, someone who is there for you, can teach you lessons and be an adult figure in your life while also helping you learn,” Baldaia said.

English Teacher Melissa Jones

Photo by Jacob Jimenez

Senior TJ Cowger looks up to English teacher Melissa Jones.

“Mrs. Jones has taught me consistent work ethic, open dialogue and that belief in yourself means you accomplish anything in any setting,” Cowger said.

Jones expressed how important being a role models to other is.

“It’s nice to know that you are making an impact in somebody’s life. With teachers it is difficult to realize that,” Jones said. “I try to be positive. I try to relate to my students through humor and empathy both inside and outside of the classroom. I try to go to different events such as the football games and musicals to show they truly matter.”

Being involved in her students’ activities within the school and being mentally there for her students helps Jones set an influential model for students to look up to. Jones’ main influences for her teaching tactics can be found here at LHS.

“I get my inspiration from the teachers around me and the ones who used to be here,” Jones said. “In some ways my students inspire me with their questions and goals. Having those role models I think is very important. They help guide us, and hopefully, inspire us to try harder no matter what. I try to do that for my students.”

Women’s issues are a hot topic for the media today. Many marches and organizations like the Women’s March and #MeToo have gone viral, but why is that?

“Women are subject to the patriarchy because of the biological strength differences at the beginning of time which led to social norms,” Cowger said. “The women who proved to the world they are just as smart and emotionally aware as men should be recognized for blazing trails of equality.”

Safety Team Member Sheri Rogers

Photo by Emma McDonald

Safety Team member Sheri Rogers has tried to make her mark with every student she encounters. She makes it a goal to get to know every student well, so they feel comfortable talking to her about anything happening in their life.

“I try really hard to have a good rapport with each student, so they will respect and listen to me,” Rogers said. “They will think it’s not just someone who has super high expectations for them, rather it is someone who they feel comfortable talking with.”

Along with taking the time to get to know students, freshman Desiree Odum said there is more to Rogers that makes her special.

“She is a very strong person. She will not let you disrespect her,” Odum said. “She is a very nice person and sometimes people take her kindness for granted, but she won’t let you get away with it.”

Odum thinks strong women are good examples in people’s lives because they teach young girls to stand up for themselves and help them stay on the right track.

Though Rogers helps influence others around her, she said they are her biggest motivation for her job.

“I get inspired by students. I love my job because I love being around the kids,” Rogers said. “I love how upbeat they are and how energetic they are. I think that’s part of the reason I like my job.”

Someone who influenced Rogers when she was growing up was her grandmother. “She was a very strong woman. One of the things I got from her that helps me in my job is ‘being able to check it at the door.’ It doesn’t matter what I have going on at home or in my life, I need to be able to check it at the door so I can still greet my students,” Rogers said. “Some students get to school and look to me to be a happy, smiling face for them.”

Rogers thinks because she had such strong influential women in her life, as well as women through history to look up to, young girls and boys need a person in their life to be influential.

“I think young ladies need to see successful women so they can see how to live their life. They can see that no matter what situation you’re in, you can overcome anything,” Rogers said.

Spanish Teacher Astrid Ruiz

Photo by Joey O’Kelly

Henry Brooks Adams once said, “Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.” As many students have acknowledged, Spanish teacher Astrid Ruiz is no exception. Ruiz is someone who loves teaching, and her pupils have definitely noticed.

“Ms. Ruiz is very empowering and wants everyone to succeed in everything they do,” senior Hannah Rohm said.

Ruiz became aware of her love for teaching in Guatemala when she was only 15 years old. She also knew in order to make her dreams of becoming a teacher come true in her home of Guatemala, she would have to work extremely hard. Ruiz uses the same advice and positivity that she received from her mother in her teaching style today.

“Go for what you are dreaming, never let anyone tell you you can’t do something because you are the only person that can decide that for you,” Ruiz said.

There are many obstacles presented in everyday high school life, and many students benefit from having trusted adult figures that can provide support and guidance such as Ms. Ruiz.

“Everyone needs a good role model and someone who is constantly encouraging and supporting us when it comes to doing our best,” Rohm said.

Visual Arts Teacher Tammi Kennedy

Photo by Charlene Nguyen

Teaching can be one of the most challenging jobs. With the help of enthused teachers such as visual arts teacher Tammi Kennedy, teaching can be a magical thing. It takes a different kind of teacher to not only explain needed curriculum but also make learning for students interesting and fun.

“She’s really passionate about her job and she’s really creative,” freshman Leah Schuele said. “She pushes all of her students to be creative as well and to try their best.”

Kennedy is the type of teacher who is not afraid to take risks and think outside the box. She reminds them to always be confident in who they are.

“One of the key elements in making an inspirational woman is not being afraid of following your heart,”Kennedy said. Teachers have a more significant effect on students than many might think, as they have the power to motivate and inspire great things from young growing minds. Kennedy is a role model by teaching the true meaning of art.

“I think it’s really inspiring to a lot of younger girls to have people like Ms. Kennedy to look up to,” Schuele said.

Band Teacher Brittany True

Photo by Mercedes Peck

Band teacher Brittany True is another woman who is an influencer within LHS. True is not afraid to push the limits of working in a male-dominated field, which junior Katie Martin admires her for.

“There are not enough strong women in everyday life, especially in band class. I look up to her a lot because she is doing something I want to do when I grow up. She takes it with a stride, too,” Martin said.

“Most band teachers are men, and she does the exact same thing they do, just as well. She also is always giving me advice, and she doesn’t shy away from things.”

True thinks women around her have inspired her to be the woman she is today. “Dr. Katy Strickland from Northwest Missouri State is a huge mentor of mine,” True said. “She has always been incredibly selfless and will go the extra mile to make sure whatever she does, she does well. She treats everyone with respect while still maintaining her own voice. I was very lucky to study with her in college.”

Being a teacher, True has expanded her love for music as well as her love for learning, which helps bring out the best in people around her.

“I teach because I enjoy the learning process in all of its forms. I love learning from my students and I cherish being able to be part of such a formative a part of their lives,” True said.

Martin thinks influential and inspiring people around the community should be praised and recognized for all they’ve done for people. Whether that be from a simple thank you or a bigger gesture, she believes they all need to realize how they are helping others.

“I think anyone can be influential as long as they’re around others,” Martin said. “I think my friends are influential, too. I think that people who play the same instrument as me or have the same interests as me are inspirational.”

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