Rachel Thompson wins Teacher of the Year for 2020


Kendall Peterson

By Kendall Peterson

After 15 years of teaching at PA, Spanish teacher Rachel Thompson has been awarded  Teacher of the Year for 2020. For Thompson, teaching is “a decision I would never regret making.”

However, teaching was not always on Thompson’s agenda. Beforehand, she attended St. Louis University, in Madrid, Spain, and went on to the Vermont College of Fine Arts to earn a master’s in fine arts and writing and translation.

After studying linguistics, literature, and philosophy, Thompson was somewhat lost and “left with no obvious career choice.” She “came to teaching in a circuitous way,” when she was called to be a long-term substitute teacher for a Spanish teacher. Surprisingly, after a month, she found teaching “really rewarding and fun.”

A pivotal moment in her teaching career was when she realized that it is “about making those meaningful relationships with students” and “being a part of something that was bigger than myself” that makes teaching so unique and enjoyable.

Former Spanish teacher Claudia Cosimano was an important role model in Thompson’s teaching career.

Thompson said, “The greatest gift of my career so far has been working with her and benefiting from the 35 years of knowledge that she brought to the table.” Not only did Thompson work with Cosimano, but she was also a student of hers when she attended PA.

Thompson not only teaches IB Spanish 5 and 6, but recently began her first year of teaching the new class, AP Seminar. She has learned a lot from this class because “being able to look at the interdisciplinary possibilities between different courses has made me even more aware of ways that I could extrapolate that experience across IB.”

Another reason she enjoys AP Seminar is that “after teaching for 14 years, getting a new class that I’ve never even thought about teaching before has kind of reminded me about how exciting it is.”

Thompson’s passion for teaching is reflected towards her students. Junior Nicole Quick said, “I love how excited she gets when she’s teaching us.” Her teaching style also helps students be more invested in the topic they are learning or discussing, according to Quick. “The activities she gives is genuinely more interesting and it provides more world context.”

“The fact that she’s able to be witty and sarcastic with her class helps engage the students and helps them relate to what she’s teaching them,” said junior Elizabeth Kline.

Students also enjoy Thompson’s class because “she’s very good at appealing to her students and not acting like she’s way above the rest of us,” said Kline.

Most students take away a lot from her class since Thompson’s teaching style allows them to “take what we’ve learned and put it into a real-word context,” said Quick. ”She’s such a great role model, because she gives good pieces of advice to her students about anything you ask her.”

“She’s very deserving of the Teacher of the Year award, because she’s genuinely passionate about what she’s teaching,” said Quick. “She clearly works very hard to make the class enjoyable for her students so that we can be just as passionate.”