“His devotion and caring inspired me to do my best,” Benjamin Hansen said of teacher Lee Banitt, “He helped me to love learning chemistry.”
Hansen’s words were a familiar theme among students at this year’s ZCHS Academic Top 5 Percent Breakfast co-sponsored by the Zionsville Rotary Club and Zionsville Community High School held last Thursday at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church.
Although it is a breakfast honoring the top students, it also honors those who helped them get there, their “most influential teacher.” Each of the 22 students honored selected one teacher, from kindergarten through high school, who had the most impact on his/her life. One-by-one, students and teachers from as far back as fifth grade, stepped to the microphone to express gratitude and share stories, some with tears others with laughter. One that had both was given by Connor Lantz, who chose his psychology teacher, Amanda Vanderbur, as his most influential teacher.
“If you would have told me psychology would be my favorite class, I would have said that you were mentally ill,” Lantz said.
But, time in Vanderbur’s classroom changed his perspective on the subject and on life. Through his teacher’s battle with cancer, he learned life lessons that far outreach the classroom.
“She taught me to be courageous, dedicated, and passionate in order to succeed,” Lantz said.
Vanderbur then stepped to the microphone to share her story.
“I cried all the way here. Last year, I felt I short changed you guys by staying home,” Vanderbur said. “Many teachers here say they want their children to be like all of you. I just want my daughter to marry someone like you,” she said of Lantz.
Influence in more than academic achievement was a common theme.
“He helped me to become not only a better athlete, but he showed me how to be a better person,” Jakob Fischer said of his teacher and coach, Larry McWhorter.
Some teachers made repeat performances. AP chemistry teacher, Lee Banitt, was selected by three of his students. All three mentioned how he cared about their interests and lives outside the classroom and how his personalized approach made a difference.
“It is a privilege that a teacher takes the time to address each individual with specialized care,” student Claire Poindexter said of Banitt. “Thank you for always challenging me. You made chemistry my most memorable and most challenging class. You have prepared me for the future rigor of college.”
From the top five percent of this year’s graduating class it is clear that ZCHS teachers are preparing students for life far beyond the classroom with their words as much as the example of their lives.
“It’s the lessons we’re teaching that we don’t even know we’re teaching that matter the most,” Vanderbur said.