October 31, 2016
Just before the representative from sponsor IMT Insurance announced the winner of the WHO-TV Golden Apple Award on Friday morning, a swell of noise began from the north end of Carroll Middle School’s gym where the eighth-grade class was seated.
It was like the students already knew who was going to win; and they were right.
Eighth-grade English teacher Rachel Menken’s name was announced, and the student body erupted. No one was more surprised than Menken herself.
“It’s an honor when you’re recognized by co-workers, but when students see you as a role model, that’s what we want,” Menken said.
“We’re here to serve the students, but I would not have expected this, not at all.”
WHO-TV reporter Jodi Whitworth said the station gives out the award to one teacher in Iowa each month. She said they collect dozens of nominations through their website and choose the one they think is best.
“Usually it’s pretty hard,” Whitworth said of choosing the winner. “I know there were some good ones this month, but it was really the heartfelt letter from Steph that did it.”
Whitworth is talking about Steph Schultes, a junior at Carroll High School and former student of Menken’s. She nominated Menken because she figured there was nothing to lose and thought she deserved it.
“She’s just great,” Schultes said. “The way she teaches she’s always so excited. It doesn’t feel like she’s teaching, but you learn a lot actually.”
Schultes said it wasn’t just her work in the classroom that inspired her to nominate Menken.
“Last year I was having car troubles one day, and that night she was texting me, asking me if everything was OK,” Schultes said. “She just brightens up your day whenever you talk to her.”
CMS Principal Jerry Raymond, who kept Menken’s win a secret from staff and students, said he couldn’t think of anyone who is more deserving of the award.
“She really challenges kids with engaging writing, and kids like to be challenged,” he said. “She provides them a lot of feedback on their work and inspires them to do better.”
Menken said she’s been teaching at CMS for 10 years. It doesn’t sound like she’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.
“I absolutely love my job and love being here for the students,” she said. “(They) make everyday worthwhile.”