Local high school seniors recognize influential teachers

April 4, 2019

POCATELLO — Local high school seniors honored their teachers on March 28 during the eighth Teacher Appreciation Night hosted by Pocatello’s North Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Twenty-five students recognized one influential teacher each who has had an impact on their education, whether that teacher be from elementary school or high school.

“This is a good way to be part of community,” said Todd Blackinton, a member of the North Stake. “It’s not meant to be religious. We just wanted to recognize the good work all these teachers do for the community and the kids.”

Many of the students recognized teachers who have not only taught them skills they will need for the future, but also forged relationships over months and even years.

“That’s what I really liked about Mrs. Plato,” said student Spencer Mullen, who recognized Highland High School English teacher Stephanie Plato. “We can go from roasting each other and making memes of each other to her giving me advice. We have an awesome relationship and I’m grateful I had her for my teacher.”

Some students chose to recognize teachers for their challenging classes, which often turned out to be the most rewarding. This was the case for Hallie Penrod, who chose to recognize her communications teacher, Glenda Funk.

“She really is the teacher who got me most prepared for college,” Penrod said. “Her class was hard, but it was actually enjoyable, and I missed it when I wasn’t in it the next few trimesters after.”

Funk, who is in her final year of teaching after educating students for 38 years, also said the event is a special one because it recognizes teachers who aren’t always in the limelight.

“I’m really grateful,” she said, who has been acknowledged seven out of eight times at the event. “It means a lot to have recognition like this and have the stake put this on.”

For Abbi McConnell, the event was a way of showing her appreciation for Highland High School English teacher Kyle Jenks.

“Mr. Jenks taught me for English 102, and it was probably one of the most challenging classes I’ve ever taken,” she said. “I went back and did a word count of how many words I wrote for his class and it was sixteen thousand...I’m really grateful for him challenging me because he’s really helped me experiment with my writing and develop my own style.”

McConnell, who plans on attending Brigham Young University in Provo, said Jenks’ influence helped drive her desire to be an English teacher.

“He’s helped me be more confident and proud of the things I’ve written and encourages us to stretch,” she said. “I’m just really grateful that he’s willing to put in so much time and effort into pushing us to be our best.”

Jenks has taught for 13 years and has been recognized twice at the event in the past. Even so, to him, the event is always a humbling one.

“Many of us (teachers) aren’t in this profession to be recognized,” he said. “The major reward is when kids (we’ve taught) come back and visit. So in this case it’s like, whoa! OK! It feels good.”

It is also the event itself that Jenks appreciates, which he says helps society learn more about gratitude.

“I think what the North Stake does is a great lesson in civility and learning how to pay it forward,” he said.

This type of positive attitude is one of the reasons the North Stake puts the events on, said President Tim Kmetz.

“We feel like this is a great character building opportunity for (the students) to practice gratitude in their lives and to give thought and be given the opportunity to share,” he said. “This isn’t a mandatory thing. These students were not required to do this. They were simply invited to consider one of their teachers who made an impact in their lives. They did that voluntarily and willingly, without any requirement.”