by Shannon Pleasant, Austin Oak Hills Stake Communication Director
AUSTIN, Texas — Congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in south Austin gave recognition to high school teachers, coaches and counselors across six school districts with Crystal Apple Awards. High school seniors each nominated an individual of high moral character who had a positive impact on them during their high school experience.
The annual banquet event was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, but still recognizing these special teachers remains important to church members and leadership who are grateful for their support and efforts on behalf of students.
When asked about why they selected the specific teachers for nominations, students shared how their nominees had inspired them, helped them gain confidence, improved their problem solving, showed them the importance of service and the positive impact one person can have through their kindness, support and positivity.
“We are so pleased to honor the good people in our community that have made a difference to the students in our congregations,” President Chris Germann of the Austin West Stake said. “There is no greater call than to teach.”
The Crystal Apple Awards for 2020 included these 28 exceptional teachers, counselors and coaches from Austin ISD, Del Valle ISD, Dripping Springs ISD, Eanes ISD, Leander ISD and Lake Travis ISD. Retta Ary, Dale Baker, Alex Brown Tami Purcell Burklund, Mitzi Jo Carey, Jeff Christensen, Christopher Edgar, Prakash “Had” Jadeja, Lee Ashlee Fletcher, Debra Hurwitz, Christina Jenschke, Michael Lowe, Archie McHarg, Andrew Nourse, Adam Poynor, Jeffrey Rasp, Rory Roberts, Matthew Roumelis, Joseph Saxe, Craig Swannack, Elizabeth Stark, Carol Tarsa, Kerry Taylor, Taylor Trevino, Kristina Vannoy, Aaron Wedemeyer, Cassie Wheatley and Stacie Widerman were nominated.
Michael Smith, president of the Austin Oak Hills Stake, said, “We believe education is one of the important purposes of our journey here on earth. We are grateful for the contributions and service of so many outstanding teachers, coaches and counselors that have made a difference in the lives of students in our congregations.”
In preparation for the event, several students created original artwork to be displayed that visually captured the importance of teachers.
Student artist, Zander Crowns, described his piece, bottom row, right corner, “I call this “What is only possible with Teachers.” A rocket ascends into the depths of the uncharted, strengthening, and expanding in size as more join the trek. This is only possible with teachers. Teachers are a fundamental and integral part of society; through their guidance, their students are united and transformed into something that will propel them to new heights.”
Student artist, Chloe Storm, first piece of top row, described her art this way, “This piece represents the color and life teachers bring to learning. Without inspiring teachers, our world would be colorless and dull. Thank you, teachers!”
Student artist, Madi Jensen, first piece of bottom row, described her work, “Teachers help inspire the future and light the world. I wanted to show that through my artwork. The latin quote means, let there be light.”
Student artist, Kali Power, last piece of first row, said about her art, “The teachers that have made the biggest difference in my life are those who give both knowledge and inspiration. They encourage creativity and teach their students to turn ideas into actions, allowing them to become the best version of themselves.”
Student artist, Kenzi Power, middle piece of top row, shared the following, “My favorite teachers are ones that look at each student as an individual. They get to know them and understand them. They recognize that everyone learns and even thinks differently. Then they use this knowledge to help each student learn in the way that works for them.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ youth program for ages 12 to 18 includes both religious education and secular activities and events to help young people build character and confidence. Education is highly valued as fundamental to personal development and self reliance.
For more information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ youth program, please visit https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/youth.com?lang=eng&_r=1