Heroes Among Us
Was there a high school teacher who made a difference in your life? One you wish you could have given an award to? I remember two, and it’s a personal regret that I never acknowledged them. That problem has been solved in local high schools with the Crystal Apple award.
The Crystal Apple award is unique because the electors are a savvy and demanding group—the students. Students are invited to nominate teachers who have had a positive impact on their lives. At a recent ceremony, Crystal Apple awards were given to eight teachers from four local high schools. For Laguna Beach High School, a remarkable 24 teachers were nominated. The most nominations, and the awards, went to Valorie Quigley, the calculus teacher, and Somer Selway, the ceramics teacher. This is their story.
Student Molly Cohn, one of the nominators, gave the presentation speech for Valorie Quigley, her AP math teacher. Cohn had been nervous when she started calculus and did poorly on an early test. She might have quit, but Quigley provided reassuring support, taking Cohn under her wing. Cohn’s competence and confidence has since grown and she attributes this to her teacher: “Because she believed in me, I now believe in myself.” As a result, Cohn will pursue a math major in college. It’s a gift passed forward—when Quigley was in high school, a teacher inspired her to become a math teacher. Nationally, twice as many men receive college math degrees as women, but at LBHS, where Quigley has taught for 24 years, the ratio is nearing parity—59 girls in calculus with 74 boys.
Ceramics teacher Somer Selway, who has taught for 16 years, was introduced by student Bella Fonk. “Mrs. Selway,” Fonk recounted, “constantly assures me of the faith she has in my ability. Because she believes in me, she helps me believe in myself. I can’t think of a better way to describe Mrs. Selway.” Selway, in her response, noted that she hadn’t had the opportunity to be a mother, so her students were like children for her. There was a catch in her throat as she said this; her loving care for her students was clear to all.
Selway and Quigley had more in common than helping students to believe in themselves. After college, each had started careers in the business world but found their jobs unfulfilling. Both returned to college to become teachers, where they have found the deeper meaning they sought. A common theme among all the teachers was the belief that they have the best jobs in the world.
The award ceremony was a remarkable and uplifting experience. So many great teachers, so many promising students. Driving home, I thought of ceramic art, how raw clay is modeled and fired into a thing of beauty. I saw our teachers as artists, creating masterpieces as they patiently teach. They are as heroes among us. There’s meaning in that.
Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]
Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):
Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.
Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.
Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.
Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.
First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.
ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.
Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.
Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.
Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.
United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.
St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.
St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.
Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.