VERNON- This week's Golden Apple award winner is an Intensive Reading Specialist at Vernon High School. Rachel Thomas was nominated by a student, Kaitlyn Borton, who writes: "Mrs. Thomas helps every student, whether one of hers or not, with whatever they need. She will always make time for her students and never leaves them hanging. She truly deserves the Golden Apple." Colleagues and student alike say in many cases, Mrs. Thomas makes the difference between a student calling it quits or reaching for that diploma.
Every teacher has the ability to make a difference in the lives of their students, but it is rare to hear a student say this: "I came here and I felt like nothing and then she built up my confidence," said transfer student Kelsey Douds. An Intensive Reading Specialist, Mrs. Thomas is literally changing the trajectory of her students lives by convincing discouraged high schoolers they can improve. "I was one of those students. I felt like I did not exist. I decided to go into education later in my life because of that, I wanted to be the teacher who focused on the individual rather than the whole group," said Mrs. Thomas.
As a transfer student, Kelsey Douds came in very behind. She is one of Mrs. Thomas' success stories. "She completely changed my mindset. She told me that you can do anything and I caught up. I' m here now. I'm a senior and I'm graduating. It feels great, I didn't think I would be able to do it at all." "Many may have quit and hung it up by now," said Principal Brian Riviere. "Rachel is that light for them and helps them see it at the end of the tunnel," he said. "Considering that I came from nothing and was going to quit school and now she is pushing me to keep going. I'll finish it doesn't matter when I finish, as long as I finish," said Kaitlyn Borton who nominated Mrs. Thomas for the Golden Apple.
Mrs. Thomas herself faced incredible difficulties as a student. "I was severely dyslexic and had a big comprehension problem, so I can relate," said Mrs. Thomas. In just her second year of teaching at Vernon High School, her students are already showing major learning gains. "My ACT scores have improved. My FCAT scores have improved. She is incredible," said student Alesha Works. "They have come so far and it's so rewarding," said Mrs. Thomas.
"She has helped me a lot," said 10th grader Marcus Harison. "Not just with school issues, but if we have family issues we know we can talk to her. She is one of those teachers you can reach out to and talk to her about anything," he said.
Congratulations to Rachel Thomas, this week's Golden Apple award winning teacher. "I truly appreciate everything that she has done. I really appreciate her," said Kaitlyn.