DISTINGUISHED: Poly English teacher Mrs. Yeyna is awarded for her outstanding work inside and outside the classroom.
By Chloe Vega, Staff Writer
This past month, 58 teachers and 30 counselors, chosen out of a total of 411 nominees from around the world, received the Yale Educator Award. The award expresses the students’ appreciation for educators by recognizing the above-and-beyond work achieved by these instructors, highlighting their ability to assist in the growth of well-rounded minds. One such recipient of the award is Poly High School’s very own Mrs. Kimberly Yeyna.
Upon starting their first year of college, incoming freshmen at Yale nominated one faculty member from their high school who mentored them both inside and outside of a classroom setting. Poly alumni and former Spotlight editor Matthew Sáenz chose to nominate the AP Language and Composition teacher Yeyna as someone who guided him to become the person he is today. “[S]he cultivated an environment that fostered substantial intellectual and personal growth. She respects her students as intelligent people, capable of arriving at well-informed conclusions,” Sáenz said. In addition to helping her students thrive in an educational environment, Yeyna also helps her students with their overall well-being and achieve a healthy state of mind. “She worked with me to bring in physicians to speak on stress, and methods to self-cope. She created activities to help her students to find their ‘bliss’–irrespective of societal expectations,” Sáenz added. An advocate for “personalized learning,” a process in which students are given the opportunity to learn in a curriculum based on their own needs, Yeyna worked to create an English department not only dedicated to educating its students on the core curriculum, but on the betterment of themselves as well.
As for Yeyna herself, receiving this award came as a shock. “I received an e-mail from Yale, and I skipped over it, because I thought it was their yearly e-mail thanking me for my previous letters of recommendation,” Yeyna said. “I was shocked, humbled and felt extremely grateful for the appreciation Matthew expressed.” Through years of dedicated work, Yeyna earned this award, but she believes the growth of her students and peers is the true measure of success. “I strive to empower my students to build on their strengths, not to shy away from their weaknesses, to open their minds to diverse views, to question, question, and question some more, to believe in the power of words, and most importantly, to believe that with patience and fortitude, nothing is beyond their capacity to learn,” Yeyna said. “I see this as a personal note of appreciation— the greatest gift a teacher can receive.” For Poly students, teachers with the dedication to help their students grow and succeed, such as Mrs. Yeyna, are the greatest gift.