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Teacher of the Year Chrissy Wiedemann is an  English and newspaper teacher who has had a monumental effect on her students and colleagues.

Teacher of the Year Chrissy Wiedemann is an English and newspaper teacher who has had a monumental effect on her students and colleagues.

Bergen Romness

Bergen Romness

Teacher of the Year Chrissy Wiedemann is an English and newspaper teacher who has had a monumental effect on her students and colleagues.

Sofie Dalton, Sentry Staff Reporter

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Some people leave an impact on others that cannot fully be described with words. It lies in their steadfast dedication to leaving the world a better place than they found it. It can be characterized by the hard work that they put into their work each and every day. Their impact can be seen through the eyes of those whose lives they have improved. Words cannot encapsulate how much they and their underlying diligence mean to others. English and newspaper teacher Chrissy Wiedemann is one of those individuals. The monumental effect she has had on her students and colleagues is unparalleled and shows how deserving she is of the title Teacher of the Year.  

Wiedemann has been teaching at Yorktown since the 2000-2001 school year. She teaches both ninth-grade English and newspaper, serving as the faculty advisor of The Yorktown Sentry. Wiedemann decided to become an English and journalism teacher because of her passion for writing and working with others.

“I love telling stories, interacting with others and writing. Teaching is a way to help students hone their own story-telling skills,” Wiedemann said.

Despite the positive impact Wiedemann has had and continues to have on so many students, she herself did not have a great experience with her teachers in high school.

“I didn’t have a positive experience with teachers in high school. I could not wait to graduate. College was staggering to me in that professors treated me as a person. Having that negative interaction with most of my teachers in my own high school learning environment inspired me to try to generate positive communication with students,” Wiedemann said.

When she was in high school, Wiedemann could never have imagined that she would become a high school teacher. In fact, in ninth grade, her dream job was to be a speechwriter for the president.

“I could not imagine a more rewarding job –  a speechwriter works with words and other people in collaboration to create a potentially powerful message. The last job I imagined as rewarding was teaching,” Wiedemann said.

However, Wiedemann has learned that the reward of teaching can be found each and every day in the classroom. The job that she could never have imagined having has become a monumental part of her life. It has also provided her with the rewarding aspects that she imagined the speechwriter for the president would have.

“What I have learned through this job is that all of the elements I imagined being rewarding in my childhood dream job happen for me every day. I work with words, I collaborate with amazing people and every day I have the opportunity to create and deliver powerful messages for my students,” Wiedemann said.

For Wiedemann, teaching is more than just a job; she has devoted herself to making Yorktown a better place. One way she has done this is by starting the Freshman Mentor Program. This program matches a small group of incoming freshman with either a sophomore, junior or senior mentor. Their mentor takes them on a tour the first day of school and meets with them periodically throughout the year. Wiedemann co-founded the Mentor Program to help ease the adjustment into high school for incoming freshman.

“I started the Mentor Program with another teacher and counselor because we saw a true need to bridge middle school and high school. More and more students seemed to become overwhelmed by the size of the school, the difference in workload and balancing the time it takes to be successful on the high school level,” Wiedemann said.

This program has been a major success and has helped give freshman an added layer of comfort as they make the transition into high school. It has also allowed Wiedemann to become more connected with the student body.

“I appreciate that I am able to meet more students through this program. I meet and work with mentors in all grades, and I am able to work with more freshmen than are in my classes. I get to know a greater portion of the school than I would otherwise,” Wiedemann said.

Another way Wiedemann has gone above and beyond is through the incredible environment she fosters in her newspaper class. Wiedemann has helped create a family-like atmosphere within The Sentry, where students share a close bond with each other and work together as a team to produce quality articles.

“Newspaper becomes a family. After three or four years together, students become like siblings. I enjoy the content and the experience of creating something with students. It isn’t easy to write for the community, but the students in newspaper are not afraid to work on their writing in a public setting. I admire that fearlessness. A team mentality is a natural evolution when you work on that material together under the pressure of a deadline. The class truly develops a bond,” Wiedemann said.

In addition to facilitating a close-knit class, Wiedemann has also developed lasting relationships with her newspaper students. Senior and head editor of The Yorktown Sentry, Claire Kuwana is one of those students. Throughout her three years on The Sentry, she has developed a close relationship with Wiedemann who has become more than just a teacher to her.

“My favorite thing about Ms. Wiedemann is how much she cares about her students. Ms. Wiedemann goes above and beyond to care for her students, especially in such a close-knit group such as The Sentry. She has managed to develop a relationship with almost every student she meets, and everyone is comfortable coming to her with whatever they need. Not only has she been my teacher for three years, but she has also served as a huge part of my support system,” Kuwana said.

Wiedemann’s trust in her newspaper students shows through the student-run environment that encourages leadership and dedication in all corners of the classroom.

“Having Ms. Wiedemann as my journalism teacher is unique because she works with us to run the class, which has promoted a community of trust within the class. She allows the class to be primarily student-run, and she entrusts us with a lot of responsibility which has facilitated an extremely open and close relationship between her and her students, particularly the editors,” Kuwana said.

Wiedemann’s unwavering dedication and hard work, which she has demonstrated in all of her various positions at our school, has had a tremendous impact on both her students and co-workers. She stands apart as a teacher because of her desire to improve the experience her students have in the classroom, and the relationships she facilitates with them.

“I think Ms. Wiedemann devotes all of her being into her work, she’s constantly thinking of ways to improve what she does in the classroom and how she affects her students,” Special Education teacher Brannon Burnett said.

“I think beyond being well versed in the content she also has a way that is organic in that she is able to make connections, not only with students, but also with her colleagues, and it really is something that’s authentic. It’s not rushed because it’s who she is as a person and so, while she knows the content, she also can think of creative ways to connect things that might not be as interesting to a ninth-grade student that makes it relevant to their lives today,” English and Film Studies teacher Rachel Sadauskas said.

Wiedemann also stands apart because of her willingness to always help out her co-workers.

“Whenever colleagues need help, no matter how many papers she has sitting on her desk and what chaos is taking place in a room, she always stops what she’s doing and she’s ready to help others, and so I think that’s something that really sets her apart with students and colleagues,” Sadauskas said.

Perhaps the most unique and special aspects about Wiedemann are the relationships that she has formed within 5200 Yorktown Boulevard. The effect that she has had on her students go beyond lessons, quizzes and essays, rather it speaks to who she is an individual and her desire to bring out the best in everyone who walks through her classroom.

“The relationship I have formed with Ms. Wiedemann is unlike that of any other teacher, and she has made my experience at Yorktown much better by always being there for me to talk or vent to. Without her constant support, I do not doubt that my time in high school would have been much harder,” Kuwana said.

“What makes Ms. Wiedemann so unique as a teacher is that she is so much more than a teacher. She forms genuine relationships with her students… there’s so many amazing things about her that have touched so many lives over the years, but my favorite part of her has to be her heart. She cares for each student, staff, parent, faculty member and anyone else that walks through her door so deeply and genuinely. She wants to see everyone succeed and will go to great lengths to get them there,” Class of 2017 graduate and former Sentry Social Media Manager Emily Calvert said.

“In addition to her work that she does within the context of the classroom she also does so many clubs and when students want to do something extra and come to her with an idea, she always jumps right on board with it and is there to support them,” Sadauskas said.

The lessons that students and colleagues have learned from Wiedemann are unparalleled and truly shows the impact she has had on individuals throughout our school.

“[I’ve learned from her] that every day is a new day and you have to approach it as such, so you can’t carry the baggage of yesterday or be worried about the tasks for tomorrow, you have to focus each day as an individual day,” Burnett said.

“I think something that I learned from her is to always be open-minded… but then also being willing to adapt what I do verses becoming stagnant in my practice, always looking to improve myself and challenge myself,” Sadauskas said.

“Ms. Wiedemann has taught me lessons that resonate both in and out of the classroom… Ms. Wiedemann has set a precedent of being respectful and unprejudiced for the entire staff, and everything I have learned about writing and journalism has come from her. She has also taught me the importance of being kind as I have witnessed firsthand the effect that her compassion has had on all of her students,” Kuwana said.

“Whether she knew it at the time or not, I was always looking up to her for little life lessons. One of the things that I will always carry with me that Wiedemann showed me through actions rather than words, is to love deeply. No matter who walks through her room, she immediately shows such love and grace to them. She is a “yes” person and I admire that so much. Whether it’s being another club advisor, editing countless essays or listening to the complaints of high school students, she will always say “yes”… Her ability to love is so admirable and I hope to love as deeply as she does. Oh, and to never use the Oxford comma,” Calvert said.  

Even though Wiedemann did not get her dream job of being a speechwriter for the president, she is a dream come true for her students. She has had a positive and powerful impact on so many people and has taught her students not only how to write well, but how to love well and be good, kind and respectful people. She will undoubtedly continue to change students’ lives for the better as her career continues. Wiedemann has accomplished what all great people hope to: she has found a little piece of the world and is leaving it better than she found it.

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