Student receives impactful compliment through one silent moment

A teacher’s emotional response made Abby Petersen know she had accomplished her goal.

Abby Petersen, a high school senior at Calvin Christian in Fridley, Minnesota, looked up from the pulpit as she gave the final presentation of her Independent Projects class and saw her teacher crying. She knew in that moment that she had done it. She had proved that she learned something.

Just a year before, Abby was debating whether to take the Independent Projects class or pursue PSEO. She had already taken it three times since freshman year, her first impression being that it was “the stupidest class ever.” It wasn’t until she received some advice from her older brother that she made her decision.

“Do Independent Projects,” he said. “It’s important. You’ll have time for college in college.”

At the start of her senior year, she had no idea just how much she would learn from the class. Over the course of the class, each student studied 10 topics of their choice, periodically presenting their research and findings to the class.

Abby can recall her advisor challenging her even when she didn’t want to be challenged.

“Abby, you’re good at this,” he would encourage time after time. “Take responsibility for your learning.”

As the year progressed, she began to realize that these phrases were more than just empty tactics he used to get students to do their work. He truly believed in them.

Petersen’s final project was an autobiography in which she was tasked with explaining what she had learned throughout her high school career and how it met the standardized requirements. As Abby was reflecting upon the class that had been such a large part in her learning how to prepare and become “what it meant to be a learner,” she looked up to see her advisor in the back of the class, doing his best to disguise his tears.

This silent compliment reassured her that she had accomplished her goal. She had shown herself and her advisor that she has taken responsibility for her learning and her knowledge. She was proud of what she had accomplished in the past year. She was personally responsible for everything she had learned through that class.

Petersen concluded her final project with a few pieces of advice for the younger students: “One, pray and pray often, because if you don’t, eventually you won’t want to worship a God you don’t know. Two, take responsibility for your actions and your words, and pay attention to how they affect other people. And three, Jesus Christ wants all of you, every piece.”

“Grades are just numbers, what you learn is up to you.” — Abby Petersen, News Editor for the Bethel Clarion

As Abby started her college career, she kept that sense of responsibility with her.

“Grades are just numbers,” she explains, “what you learn is up to you. No matter how well I do on assignments or tests, it doesn’t mean anything if I didn’t learn.”

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