Educator of the Year: Karen Mekenian | Teen Ink

Educator of the Year: Karen Mekenian

July 29, 2019
By BenjaminLee BRONZE, Hecienda Height, California
BenjaminLee BRONZE, Hecienda Height, California
3 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
Ling Ling 40 hours----TwoSet Violins

Two years ago I immigrated with my mother to the United States from China.  The second I walked out of the airport I stepped into a dark forest. Everything that I was familiar with was taken away.  I cried and screamed for help, but stopped because the pain of fear and unknown stole my soul. There were only darkness and dead silence in my life until the day I met Mrs. Mekenian.

The first time I met Mrs. Mekenian I felt nothing, no emotions.  She didn’t look any different or special from all the other teachers at school.  It didn’t cross my mind that she would be the person that would make a difference in my life.  All I knew about her was a strange word that she told me during class on the first day of school; Armenian.  Since I knew zero information about her, I chose to listen to rumors from other students, who described Mrs. Mekenian as a “nice” teacher that never teaches anything and just waits for her monthly paycheck.

However, as the days passed by, I realized Mrs. Mekenian was a completely different person from what I originally believed from the rumors.  I decided to form my own opinion about her. Mrs. Mekenian was a special teacher; she was a treasure box that always gave you surprising gifts.  Her knowledge was like a vast and deep ocean. In one year I learned so much from her! She not only taught me but also her students, about general life experiences and especially Armenian history.

Throughout the school year, Mrs. Mekenian also encouraged and supported me, especially for school assignments.  I used to write in my primary language a lot, Chinese because I feared other students would make fun of my written English.  I knew I could never write as well as native English writers, but with Mrs. Mekenian’s encouragement, I defeated my fear and picked up the pen that I loved and started to express myself through the words that were written on the paper.  For example, after a weekend of writing, I finished my first English essay, Dream Kites, which was not for a school assignment.  When I typed in the last word of the essay, I found my soul and finally walked out of the past and the dark forest that had enclosed me.  No longer was I a silent muppet.  

After I wrote Dream Kites, I brought a copy of it to school and asked Mrs. Mekenian to help me edit it.  Consequently, she spent many hours patiently sitting with me, explaining the reasons for the changes and making sure I understood them.  I was touched by her patience and the fact that she spent a long time helping me. It wasn’t her responsibility to help me like that. The essay was not a school assignment.  She could have easily refused to help me, but she did not. And, in fact, Mrs. Mekenian supported me with other writing assignments as well. 

Without Mrs. Mekenian, writing and reading would still be a funeral march for me.  What I appreciated the most was her patience, which supported me in many ways. The first year I moved to the United States I hated to read in English.  In contrast, I read twice as fast in my native language than other Chinese students, while I read twice as slow in English than other English students. As a fifth-grader, I read only for school assignments.  Reading in English was a gigantic rock that blocked my path toward learning English.

However, one day in 6th grade, that stumbling rock was overcome when Mrs. Mekenian and I found a cardboard box of old reading novels that were abandoned in the classroom closet.  They were the novels for 7th Honors Language Arts, Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen-Mah.  The title of the book attracted me.  As soon as I opened the book and read the first page, I was hooked.  I decided to borrow the book and read it on my own time. In my second year of learning English, I still needed some help to understand the text.  Whenever I asked for help, Mrs. Mekenian would always explain it patiently to me. To help me understand the meaning better she made connections and relationships.  I spent a long time to finish reading the book. However, knowing that I could share my opinions and feelings with Mrs. Mekenian motivated me to keep reading. Again she was extremely patient to listen, even though she already read the book multiple times.  She taught me more by voicing her opinions and experiences as well. I could not stop to read more because I wanted to tell her more about my thoughts. In the end, both of us reached the same conclusions about the poor Chinese Cinderella. 

Eventually, at the end of the school year, Mrs. Mekenian became my favorite teacher.  She is a wise teacher who changed me forever. She is that shot of light that guided me to walk out of the dark forest.  She loves and cares for every single one of her students. She translates her love into the actions and helping and supporting all her students.  Her honey-sweet smile and words of encouragement will always be in my mind, pushing and motivating me to work harder.

The author's comments:

To me, Mrs.Mekenian is my teacher, my friend, and even my family. She brought brightness into my life and always encourage me to do what I liked. I appreciated everything she had done to help me. Mrs.Mekenian is a knowledgeable, patient, and special teacher that I will never ever forget.

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