HENRICO COUNTY, Va. --In Karen Nowicki's 5th grade debate class, the subject being discussed is recess.
"My friends in Turkey told me that they have recess for one hour," one student said from the debate podium.
"Establish eye contact with your audience," Ms. Nowicki reminded her. "That way they know that you're relating directly to them."
This class at Springfield Park Elementary School is more than just learning.
It’s also about building confidence.
And it worked for Ms. Lennie Geipel’s three boys. Ms. Nowicki taught all three and all three credit her for giving them their love of learning.
Their mom dropped by Springfield Park to thank the teacher who made such an impact.
"I feel like you see the potential and the brightness and the light in each student," Ms. Geipel told Ms. Nowicki. "And that makes all the difference in the world."
"I'm not necessarily a scientist," Ms. Nowicki said, "but I could see with the Geipel boys that they were into math and science and I was going to push them."
The youngest Geipel boy, Alden, is a sophomore at Deep Run High School’s Center for IT.
Middle son Stuart is a junior at VCU majoring in engineering through a provost scholarship.
The oldest, Clayton, is a University of Virginia grad student researching scram jet engines for NASA.
Huddled over a cell phone, Ms. Geipel showed Ms. Nowicki a video message from Clayton.
"I was always excited to go to school because you found new ways to challenge me," Clayton said in the recording. "And I always went home feeling like I had achieved something. I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for teaching me to never stop learning. I don't plan to."
A teary-eyed Ms. Nowicki hugged Ms. Geipel afterwards.
"Is that unbelievable?! To think that I had the opportunity to work with someone who is now working for NASA? Unbelievable!"
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