2018 "Pass the Torch" Scholarship Finalists


The response we received for this year's Teachers Test Prep "Pass the Torch" Teacher Scholarships program was astonishing: 665 applicants from across the country. These aspiring educators were asked to tell us about a teacher who had an impact on them and what they learned that they'd like to pass on to the students they will teach. 

Our finalists' stories were sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but always insightful and inspiring.

We awarded a total of $10,000 to this year's two scholarship recipients: one $5,000 scholarship to a recipient planning a career in elementary education and one $5,000 scholarship to a recipient planning a career in secondary education. All eight finalists also received a $100 Amazon gift card and one year of free access to any of our Core Plus Online Prep Programs to help them pass the credentialing exams required by their state, such as the Praxis, CSET or FTCE.

The finalists and scholarship recipients are below.


Mack Griffith (Grove City College, PA)

Teacher: Mrs. Jennifer Foster

As a first-grader, Mack Griffith experienced the power of inclusiveness firsthand, thriving in a warm and supportive learning environment where all students were welcomed and recognized as individuals. He now strives to carry this ethos forward as a special education teacher, building classrooms where every learner is valued.

Click here to watch Mack's story about Mrs. Foster.


Chela Baisas (Northern Virginia Community College, VA)

Teacher: Mrs. Melody Walczuk

Once teased by her classmates for being small, thanks to her fourth-grade teacher, Chela Baisas now has a big ambition: to create classrooms where all students feel connected through kindness, love and encouragement.

Click here to watch Chela's story about Mrs. Walczuk.

Shukura Burrell (George Washington University, DC)

Teacher: Mr. Arphelius Paul Gatling

Shukura Burrell was a shy, withdrawn Junior High student when she first encountered Mr. Arphelius Gatling, a music teacher who helped her find her voice and believed in her when she didn’t believe in herself. Today, she wants to carry on his legacy, using patience and persistence to help students struggling to find their place in the world.

Click here to watch Shukura's story about Mr. Gatling.

Katelyn Novak (Bryan College, TN)

Teacher: Ms. Teresa Tedder

In this evocative homage to her music teacher, Katelyn Novak explores how the passion of one extraordinary woman ignited her love of music – a passion she inevitably transfers to her own students: “Her zest for bringing music to life has been planted deep within me. I cannot help but pass it on.”

Click here to read Katelyn's story about Ms. Tedder.


Ontario Brown (Texas Christian University, TX)

Teacher: Mr. Nakia Douglas

Unmoored by his father’s death and lacking motivation at school, Ontario Brown’s life was at a low point when he encountered Nakia Douglas, a man who became not only his teacher, but a powerful male role model. Through a career in math education, Ontario aspires to help marginalized young men overcome social stereotypes and redefine success both in the classroom and beyond.

Click here to watch Ontario's story about Mr. Douglas.


Lucero Martinez Cisneros (University of San Diego, CA)

Teacher: Mr. Simon Alvarado

Born into a traditional Hispanic household, Lucero Martinez Cisneros is a fervent believer in the transformative power of education. She attributes her passion for teaching to the influence of one man, Mr. Simon Alvarado, a committed teacher who helped not only her, but six of her siblings, take pride in their cultural identity and envision a future beyond the one they had been allotted.

Click here to read Lucero's story about Mr. Alvarado.

Katherine Harrison (University of San Francisco, CA)

Teacher: Professor Marlene Molina

Katherine Harrison proved that age is no barrier to pursuing your dream, when after 22 years as a homemaker, she returned to college to become a teacher. Challenged to share her story with her classmates, Katherine learned the value of vulnerability in creating a safe and supportive learning environment.

Click here to read Katherine's story about Professor Molina.

Ryan James Ritzes (University of Maryland, MD)

Teacher: Ms. Jillian Bauersfeld

The power of positivity: this is the legacy that theatre director Jillian Bauersfeld passed on to her students. Now an aspiring music teacher, Ryan James Ritzes aims to empower his future students by radiating joy, strength and an infectious enthusiasm.

Click here to watch Ryan's story about Ms. Bauersfeld.



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