Some of you have wondered who the winner is in the Teacher Appreciation Week contest. (Another one of you pointed out that the official Teacher Appreciation Week is in May, but that's by the by -- we didn't want to wait that long.) The reason we haven't announced our winner until now is, frankly, we needed an extension. Three entries in particular really stood out, and we had a really hard time deciding among them. So today, tomorrow, and Friday, we're naming a valedictorian, salutatorian, and... thirdatorian. The valedictorian gets the book, as promised, but we'll publish all three.

So, our "thirdatorian" comes first:

I myself am an elementary school teacher, fighting through my first full year. A big part of the reason I became a teacher had to do with all of my K-3rd grade teachers at The Roeper School in Birmingham, Michigan. One teacher who was more inspiring than most, however, was my science teacher for most of those years, Mr. Emery Pence. Emery (for we were a private school for gifted students and so treated as adults, no Mr. and Mrs. here) was a funny, kind, and enthusiastic science teacher. Like most adults I remember only bits and pieces of early elementary school, but an amazing number of those memories involve Emery. I remember in 1st grade biology, watching enthralled as he dissected eyes, hearts, brains, and lungs from various farm animals. I can still picture him pulling the lens out of a cow eye for us to see. I remember second grade geology, when we took a field trip (6 and 7 year olds that we were) to the rock and mineral show where we were allowed to look around on our own and work on the rock and mineral collections we would be displaying later in the year. We did chemistry and physics, creating our own rockets and slime, we played in the woods and the creek, he told us conundrums that I can recall to this day. He encouraged us, 8 years and younger, to think beyond what your average high schoolers even consider.

Throughout the rest of my schooling, horribly mundane and demeaning as a public school education was, I always carried with me the love of science, brain teasers, and learning in general that was, if not instilled in, then nurtured by Emery Pence. When choosing a career it came down to two options: medicine or teaching. Every brainteaser I present my students with, every time I give them knowledge that is "too old for them" or challenge them to think beyond the norm, it is thanks to Emery.

I think I can easily say that Emery is the reason I am a teacher, a well rounded individual, and a mental_floss reader.

Sara Nickerson
5th Grade teacher, Raleigh, NC