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“This is the highlight of the year if you’re lucky enough to be nominated,” Michael Schneider, a teacher at Castle View High School, said. “A night like this, with these students, that will keep me going through a lot of rough times.”

After a three-year lapse during the pandemic, the Castle Rock stake of Church of Jesus Christ of  Latter-Day Saints hosted its annual Teacher Appreciation Night on April 13 for graduating seniors in the church to honor a teacher who influenced them and their education. 

The 47 seniors honored 38 teachers from eight schools with a plaque that featured a photo of the student and a message about their impact.

Schneider, who teaches literature and English classes, was nominated by two students — Lucy Seymour and Samuel Travis — who both emphasized how he made the classroom environment fun, engaging and light-hearted.

“I picked Mr. Schneider because he’s an outstanding teacher,” Seymour said. “Whenever we were in class, it never felt like we were only just learning, but it was a fun start to my day. Even though my writing may have never shown it, I learned so much from his classes.”

Seymour said Schneider’s enthusiasm for books has actually led her to read more outside the classroom and really opened her eyes to a subject she initially wasn’t interested in. 

For Travis, who already liked to read and write, Schneider helped him develop that passion and explore others, such as film.

“Mr. Schneider made every class a fun learning environment and he put students first when making lesson plans so he made everyone feel welcome,” he said. “He had an enthusiastic energy that made me excited for his class every day.”

Hugs, tears and smiles were a mainstay of the evening as students thanked their teachers one by one. 

Breaking the mold, student Kaison Toone recognized several teachers during his speech thanking his physics teacher Matthew Leach of Douglas County High School. Toone noted it’s difficult to honor just one person when so many have impacted him.

“There are like dozens on dozens of teachers I could choose,” Toone said. “They’re all great and some of them are here. It makes me very happy you guys are my teachers, I’ve learned an incredible amount. Thank you for my growth.”

Castle View student Brody Cauble captured the theme of the evening best while honoring his teacher Erin Newton.

“Mrs. Erin loves me and all of her students,” Cauble said. “She inspires and says good morning every single day. She dances with us, she tells great jokes and she loves Reece’s, just like I do. I love Reece’s, but I love Mrs. Erin more.”

On top of the students, Castle Rock Mayor Jason Gray and Castle Rock Stake President Chris Anderson both spoke to the importance of the work teachers do to educate youth and build community. 

Anderson said showing educators support is key to the great work they do and one of the main reasons the event continues to happen every year.

“You all here do an amazing thing and we appreciate you and your examples of putting the needs of other people before your own,” he said. “That’s what we hope these young men and women are learning.”