As a math teacher at Chaparral high school for seven years, I enjoyed the wonderful opportunity of getting to know hundreds of outstanding teenagers. Because I was usually lecturing and answering questions, I was not able to learn much about the students’ backgrounds. The bell would ring and they would be off to the next class. In spite of this limitation, I still was able to identify some outstanding students, often by merely observing their interactions with each other and the faculty. Yes, I must admit I developed a mental list of my favorites.
My inability to get to know more about the students’ backgrounds changed several years ago when the school administration started a new counseling program that allowed me to interview different students for about 20 minutes each day.