Middle school can often be a time of intense growth and transition with children. As my son entered middle school, I was fully prepared to handle any zany changes along his path to high school. But little did I know that our Royal Spring Middle School had a secret weapon: a wonderful mentorship program led by genuinely caring and nurturing educators.

As it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, I wanted to pause to reflect on the work of our amazing teachers with a special thanks to my son’s teacher and mentor, Mrs. White.

Before my son attended Royal Spring, he experienced a lot of anxiety when it came to test days. Though smart, he would psych himself out, which impacted his grades. But this all changed when he was assigned Mrs. White as a mentor.

During their first meeting in August, my son shared his goals — one of which was to gain confidence in his test-taking abilities. Throughout the year, she met with him weekly to discuss progress and collaborate on strategies to help him reach his goals. She brought compassion to the table and gained the trust of my son — and our family — in the process.

We’re just one of the many families at Royal Springs who have seen growth in our children, both academically and personally, as a result of the school’s participation in the Summit Learning Program. Summit Learning emphasizes strong student-teacher relationships. Every student is assigned to a teacher mentor at the start of the year and that teacher helps them set personal goals and track their progress towards those goals.

It’s one thing for teachers to teach, but when they’re empowered to go above and beyond classroom instruction and truly get to know individual students, it’s life-changing. In what has turned out to be a truly transformational year, today, my son is thriving.

My son’s experience is not unique. Mrs. White sets high expectations for all of her students and mentees alike. She acknowledges that every student has different abilities and learning styles, in everything from how they take notes to absorb material, to whether they best thrive through group instruction or individual support. She has a knack for meeting students at their level and enabling them to learn in ways that best suit them. That’s a priceless gift that extends well beyond Teacher Appreciation Week.

Thank you, Mrs. White. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Linda Courtney is the parent of a Royal Spring Middle School eighth-grader. She lives with her husband Charles Courtney Jr. and two sons in Georgetown.

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