October 25, 2021
Being a senior in high school, I have had many influences in the form of teachers, coaches, and mentors. I remember many of them, but precious few have made a significant and lasting impact on me. There is only one person in my life who has checked all of those boxes. Clayton Armstrong was one of those precious few. I was in his last class he ever taught before he retired as a teacher, and I can say, without hesitation, that it was the best and most productive class I have ever been in. The learning environment he created was amazing, I was only in 7th grade, but I have never been in a class where learning just happened. It wasn’t a chore, it wasn’t a burden, it was simply what occurred in the room. The reason I believe this was the case was because of the respect the students had for him. Not the kind of respect where you fear the instructor, but rather it was a respect that went both ways. He respected us, and further, he cared about us. The feeling was nearly indescribable but I will put it this way; in any interaction with him, whether it be in front of the class or one on one, you felt like he could see the real you and who you were going to become. It was like he looked into you and saw the best person you could be and wanted to do all he could to help you achieve it. That kind of perspective is not commonly found in teachers, at least not in my experience of being a student. Not every teacher is a mentor. Not every instructor treats you like not just another student, but a real person who might make a difference in the world. I was not a “star” student (as some may put it), I was fairly unathletic, not very socially aware, and only got decent grades. It didn’t matter though, because Mr. Armstrong saw right through those mild setbacks and instead saw me for my potential. He treated everyone with that care. To me, that 7th grade math class was not just a math class, it was a turning point. He helped me see, both directly and indirectly, that I could make an impact on this world. That I had something to offer. That everyone has crucial talents and abilities that make our world function, and we all play a part in it. The reason he made that impact on me, and many others, is because he believes it. You could feel the strength of his character and the strong and amazing person he was just being in his classroom. Always I looked up to him in a way I never have with any other teacher. He always seemed to be in a good mood, bringing others up who were down. You could feel his goodness, it simply radiated from him. Clayton Armstrong exemplified what a teacher should be. He understood what it meant to see all sides and all perspectives. You could tell that he took what we felt into consideration and never let us feel like we were lesser. That is what a teacher should be. Caring, respectful, enthusiastic, dedicated, and, ultimately, loving. Because, in a way, I did feel loved in that class. I felt like somebody. I felt cared for. I felt like so much more than my insecure 7th grade self made me think I was.
As the end of my last year of school draws closer, I’ve realized to a much greater degree who I really am. What is incredible to me is how many of the things that make up who I am came from Mr. Armstrong’s class. He taught so much more than math. He taught us how to see ourselves as significant and important. Someone who can help you see that in yourself is not only a person of character and moral credibility, but it is someone who you will never forget. And I haven’t, nor will I. Clayton Armstrong gave me so much of what I am today, and that will never cease to be so. If we had more teachers and people like him, the world would be far more uplifting, and the love that we have for one another would be substantially improved. I am so grateful I was able to be in that class, and it is something I will cherish forever.