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Seminary Students Honor Their Favorite High School Teachers

Students from Bella Vista and Del Campo high schools honored influential teachers during the 10th annual Crystal Apple Awards Wednesday.

By Gary Zavoral

High school students who attend early-morning seminary at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints honored their most influential high school teachers in the San Juan Unified School District during the 10th annual Crystal Apple Awards Wednesday, March 21.

More than 200 youth in the Carmichael and Citrus Heights Stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ attend seminary, an hour of religious instruction, before heading to high school at , Casa Roble, , Mesa Verde and New San Juan. On Wednesday evening at The Church of Jesus Christ meetinghouse on Van Maren Lane, one of four seminary sites in the two stakes, the students presented Crystal Apple awards to those high school teachers who inspire and motivate them the most.

This year’s Crystal Apples were awarded to:

  • Karen Perry, an English teacher at Bella Vista High School
  • Robert Leever, who teaches wood shop at Casa Roble High School
  • Karen Greenberg, an English teacher at Del Campo High School
  • Carole Bystrom, who teaches English at Mesa Verde High School
  • Sandi Coulter, who launched the culinary arts program at New San Juan High School

In her introduction of Perry, Bella Vista senior Lindsey Childs said, “Every day, she greets me with, ‘Hey Pumpkin, how are you? Are you hungry?’ I think she’s fed the entire student body. She’s a fantastic example of happiness, having fun and being an excellent teacher.”

Showing an interest in the students and making their classrooms a fun learning environment were consistent comments in the students’ introductions of their teachers.

"He believes that what makes teaching great is making the class enjoyable,” said Casa Roble student Alan Felt, who introduced Leever.

Del Campo sophomore Matt Zavoral said of Greenberg, “She’s one of those teachers where you just wish the school year would go slower, so you can have more time with her.”

Andrea Sands of Mesa Verde High School praised Bystrom for something she teaches: “Mrs. Bystrom, I agree with you – God is the best author ever.”

In accepting their awards, the teachers also praised the students and parents.

“I thank you parents for these students,” Greenberg of Del Campo said. “They’re the pleasure of a teacher’s life. … Thank you for letting me teach them.”

Leever hit on a consistent theme among the educators during the evening by saying that he can tell which students are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I can pick your kids out of my class,” he said. “There’s just a spark about them, and they’re a pleasure to teach.”

San Juan Unified Acting Superintendent Glynn Thompson praised the Crystal Apples event for acknowledging the quality teaching in the school district.

“When you pick up the newspaper, or turn on the TV or surf the Web, you hear some rhetoric that it’s somehow sexy to beat up on public education and bash teachers at public schools,” Thompson said. “But, as you have proven tonight, when parents and students support their schools and teachers, public education works every time, and it is working in the San Juan Unified School District.”

Dr. Jon Dresser, the Citrus Heights Stake director of public affairs who organized the event, also presented Thompson with a Crystal Apple for his dedication to the students and his commitment to teach Christ-like principles.

Thompson told the audience of about 300 students, educators and parents that he also attended religious instruction when he studied Christian ministry in college. Complimenting the students on their commitment to early-morning seminary, he said he rises every morning at 4:45 a.m. to read Scripture. He paraphrased the Gospel of John, saying that “the greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends. That is the greatest love we can show, to be of service to others.”

Stephanie Bedford of Casa Roble High School was the first speaker of the evening and gave an overview of the Church’s seminary program, which is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year. High school students attend seminary, beginning at 6:30 a.m. every school day, for all four high school years, and the subject matter rotates annually from Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and Church history.

President Stephen Taylor of the Carmichael Stake – a stake is similar to a Catholic diocese, consisting of several congregations – then spoke about two tough teachers he had in high school who motivated him to learn.

“The basic skills of math and English I was taught by these teachers helped me to be successful in my career, because these are the two skills I use every day as a CPA,” he said. “Teachers, you may never know the impact you’ve had on your students’ lives.”

Following musical numbers by teen choirs from both stakes, including songs from a recent Citrus Heights Stake performance of the musical “Savior of the World,” Citrus Heights Stake President Ned Telford closed the meeting by thanking the teachers for their service to our children.

“You are a second witness,” he said. “As I’ve learned as a parent, you can tell your children something over and over again, but until they see and hear it from someone else, they don’t really learn. They hear it from you, too, and it finally clicks. I appreciate you for being that second witness and for the common values that we have and that you teach.”

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