2021 "Pass the Torch" Scholarship Finalists
Despite the pandemic creating considerable challenges for many aspiring teachers, 2021 proved another strong year for the Teachers Test Prep "Pass the Torch" Teacher Scholarships. We are again awarding $10,000 in scholarships: one $5,000 scholarship to an aspiring elementary school teacher and one $5,000 scholarship to an aspiring secondary school teacher.
Entrants were asked to record a short video telling us about a teacher who inspired them and what they learned from that teacher that they would like to pass on to the students they will teach.
From the many excellent submissions received from around the country, five finalists were chosen for each category. All will receive 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.
While this year's finalists were diverse in their experiences and perspectives, they were united in one thing - they all demonstrated a passion for education which left us convinced of the powerful impact they could have as teachers. We hope you find their stories as inspiring as we do...
2021 ELEMENTARY EDUCATION RECIPIENT
Uyioghosa Ebomoyi (DePaul University, IL)
Teacher: Mr. Pasek
“Although there are many obstacles affecting their success, I don’t want to give up on the kids in these communities because Mr. Pasek made it his mission not to give up on me.”
As a young person struggling with ADHD, for years, Uyioghosa Ebomoyi found school a frustrating, demoralizing experience. Then he met Mr. Pasek. Mr. Pasek challenged him to work hard and make significant changes to his study habits and lifestyle – changes which enabled him to succeed for the first time. Today, in his work in marginalized communities, Uyioghosa continues to build on the tools Mr. Pasek gave him. As a teacher, he aims to empower those students who have the odds stacked against them, so they too can develop the skills to thrive.
2021 ELEMENTARY EDUCATION FINALISTS
Kenzie Cummings (Western Kentucky University, KY)
Teacher: Ms. Smith
“She taught me that hard work does pay off. Ms. Smith poured hours among hours into coaching me and showing me if I just pushed myself, what all that I could achieve. She built that confidence into me.”
Kenzie Cummings was a shy, timid girl when she first encountered Ms. Smith. The advisor of the school’s DECA club, a group dedicated to creating leaders and entrepreneurs, Ms. Smith persuaded Kenzie to join the club and compete in the marketing division. Under Ms. Smith’s mentorship, Kenzie not only flourished at DECA, but metamorphosed into a self-assured, capable young woman. Kenzie now aspires to have this same transformative effect on her students as a teacher in her hometown.
Jackie Fye (California State University, CA)
Teacher: Mrs. Burchfield
“Mrs. Burchfield let me know that learning and participation is not only exemplified through talking and raising one’s hand, but through listening and contemplation.”
Throughout school, Jackie Fye was repeatedly told that she needed to speak up and participate more – even though her grades were excellent. A quiet, thoughtful student by nature, this feedback left her feeling there was something wrong with her. This changed when she met Mrs. Burchfield, a teacher who finally accepted Jackie as she was. To Mrs. Burchfield, Jackie's introversion was not a problem but just another way of engaging with the world. Today in the classroom, Jackie aspires to create learning environments that truly nurture diversity, seeing and supporting each student as they really are.
Sarah Hernandez (Western Governors University, UT)
Teacher: Mr. Churchill
“The thing was that he actually cared. He cared about our wellbeing and our happiness, and that made a huge difference – to go to school every day and know that there was somewhere that we all belonged.”
Two years of bullying had taken their toll on Sarah Hernandez, changing her from an enthusiastic honors student to one who was just scraping through. Transferring schools in the hope of a fresh start, Sarah was nonetheless feeling dejected and pessimistic about the future. This all changed when she set foot in choir and drama teacher Mr. Churchill’s class. A warm and effervescent presence, Mr. Churchill created an environment where all students were both challenged and felt safe. Today, Sarah aspires to value and support each of her future students, just as Mr. Churchill did.
Alma Ortiz (Boulder Journey School Teacher Preparation Program/University of Colorado, CO)
Teacher: Professor Dorio
“Professor Dorio helped me see that I shouldn’t take things for face value and that I should look deeper, because there [are] so many hidden histories, stories and issues in the world.”
Professor Dorio was different to all the teachers Alma Ortiz had previously encountered. In his “Global Citizenship” class he sat with students rather than in front of them, turning their questions back on them and challenging them to develop their own perspectives. Most importantly, he encouraged them to engage with their world and created a space where they could openly explore their feelings about current events. Alma now wants to become a teacher so she can support her future students on their journeys as change advocates.
2021 SECONDARY EDUCATION RECIPIENT
Dhruvi Shah (San Jose State University, CA)
Teacher: Mrs. Beck
“I have such vivid memories of that lesson, and honestly, this is where my passion for math was realized. It was so cool for me to see how things we were learning in the classroom could actually be applied to our real lives.”
It was one particularly memorable lesson on fractions that awakened 3rd grader Dhruvi Shah’s love of mathematics, triggering her very first “A-ha!” moment and helping her appreciate the way math permeates our life. Now, as an aspiring math teacher, Dhruvi wants to help the many students who experience “math anxiety.” With high school math becoming increasingly complex and abstract, she aims to shift focus onto its practical, everyday applications, helping students gain confidence and skills through understanding.
2021 SECONDARY EDUCATION FINALISTS
Andreas Kidane (Loyola Marymount University, CA)
Teacher: Ms. Brenda
“I remember thinking, ‘A teacher just called me smart. My parents call me smart, but I don’t believe it - they just say it ’cause they have to - but she just called me that. Wow.’”
Andreas Kidane was ready for a new start when he transferred to a small school in Eritrea. He was skeptical when he first met his supervisor, Ms. Brenda, who seemed like everything he was trying to get away from. However, not only did Andreas and Ms. Brenda have some unexpected similarities that enabled them to connect, but she awakened a powerful leadership potential in him he never knew he had. As a special education teacher, Andreas hopes to pass on the torch by one day being to a student what Ms. Brenda was to him.
Matthew J. Kenslow (Vanguard University of Southern California, CA)
Teacher: Mr. Daniel
“He said, ‘Well, you just learned the most valuable lesson of teaching: that you learned in the process. Teachers are always learning. We don’t know everything at the start and we’re still learning, even years into it.’”
Matthew Kenslow was in 11th grade when his US History and Geography teacher, Mr. Daniel, gave him one of the most important opportunities of his life. Knowing of his ambition to become an educator and his enthusiasm for US presidents, Mr. Daniel asked Matthew to help his 2nd grade son with a project on Theodore Roosevelt. This experience gave Matthew a crucial insight into the nature of teaching – one that he will carry with him throughout his career and eventually pass on to his students.
Brianna Pressey (University of San Diego, CA)
Teacher: Mr. Hogan
“I felt curious, I felt powerful, and I felt important, and I think that for any teenager struggling with self-confidence, all three of these things are vital.”
As a teenager in Mr. Hogan’s Media class, Brianna Pressey not only learned lessons about crafting stories and broadcasting, but about understanding herself and relating to others. Now, after travelling around the world as a journalist, Brianna seeks to recreate the profound sense of connection she experienced in Mr. Hogan’s classroom among her own future students.
Matt Sadler (Urban Teachers/Johns Hopkins University, DC)
Teacher: Ms. Caisse
“The novelist Marlon James once said, ‘Writers don’t have a process. Writers have habits. If you set a routine, the music will show up.’ And how sweet that music will be for my 10th graders if they have an English teacher who cares for them as Ms. Caisse cared for me.”
While Matt Sadler aspires to be an English teacher and help his students appreciate the power of language, it was math teacher Ms. Caisse who taught him one of his most important skills. Math never came easily to Matt, especially algebra, and he often became enraged and ashamed when he couldn’t grasp concepts easily. Ms. Caisse changed that, however, teaching him to self-regulate and manage his emotions, and instilling powerful habits that allowed him to take control of his learning.