SANDPOINT — Wendy Auld, math department chair at Sandpoint High School, tried to skip Friday's assembly to help one of her students, not realizing a surprise awaited her in the auditorium.
SHS students and staff packed the auditorium where KHQ's Dan Kleckner made the announcement, honoring Auld as Eastern Washington University's Teacher of the Month.
"The reason we are here is to recognize the incredible teachers that you have here in Sandpoint High School," Kleckner said. "There is no question, no doubt, that these teachers here at Sandpoint really go above and beyond the call of duty, making you better people every single day. But there is one teacher, one teacher in particular, that we would like to recognize as our Teacher of the Month."
Auld said she had no idea she had been nominated and was surprised as anyone when she received the honor. But selfless as she is, Auld refused to take all the credit for the success of her students.
"We have students who work incredibly hard," she said, adding that when it comes to SAT scores, some SHS students are in the 97th and 98th percentile nationwide. "That doesn't come from having a great teacher, that comes from students working hard."
Auld was nominated by SHS junior Emily Shveyda. In her nomination letter, read to the crowd by EWU field representative Clive Gary, Shveyda said Auld is a teacher who "consistently goes the extra mile to help every student who she comes in contact with."
"She is a compassionate and caring teacher who only cares about the well-being of every student both in and out of the classroom. When teaching, she never gives up on us, patiently working with us to understand the subject no matter how long it takes. She encourages us to pursue our dreams and to put in the hard work to be successful. Wendy Auld, in my opinion, is the best teacher in the Northwest, and possibly the whole country," Shveyda wrote.
The letter goes on: "Now I would like to tell you how she has helped and inspired me in the three years that I have attended Sandpoint High School. During my freshman year, my mother had hit the end of her battle with cancer and eventually passed away about halfway through the school year. This affected my grades in a very negative way and made me finish freshman year with about a 2.0 GPA. So you can guess how I felt being a sophomore walking into a freshman algebra class the next year.
"Little did I know that teacher was not only going to help me succeed in algebra, but was also going to be the teacher I felt like I could go to for anything, whether it be school related or not, and she would be there for me. This teacher was Mrs. Auld. I could come in every day after school and she would be there to help me and wouldn't leave my side until I felt comfortable with what I was learning and doing, even if that meant helping me for an hour straight. I could also come in after school and talk with her about anything that was bothering me and I knew she would listen and give me the best advice, and in doing so, would make me feel like a real person and a friend, not just someone she was obligated to teach."
Nomination letters go through a screening process at EWU and Shveyda's letter not only made it through screening, Gary said, but actually "moved" a lot of the faculty who attend to the screening.
"Thank you Mrs. Auld for being the kind of teacher who has passion, that a student would write this about you," Gary said.
The EWU Teacher of the Month program is now in its 30th year, sponsored by KHQ and STCU, and teachers are nominated from all across North Idaho and Eastern Washington.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.