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Alison Aardappel has taught English at Escondido High School since 2007. Courtesy photo
Alison Aardappel has taught English at Escondido High School since 2007. Courtesy photo
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Escondido teacher Aardappel prioritizes community in classroom

ESCONDIDO  — For English teacher Alison Aardappel, maintaining a sense of community in the classroom is essential.

“We all belong to the same community,” she said. “We live in a community with many different people, and hopefully, we look out for everyone regardless of what separates us.”

Aardappel has taught English at Escondido High School for 15 years. She grew up in Vista with a goal of one day becoming a teacher. As a young, avid reader, literature eventually led her to teach English.

The Escondido Union High School District recently spotlighted Aardappel’s story, highlighting her achievements as a previous Lighthouse and Teacher of the Year award winner.

When Aardappel came to Escondido High, she felt like she belonged to a new family. Fellow staff welcomed her with open arms, willing to help as much as possible — a familial closeness between staff that remains strong today.

“Among the staff, we see it as we’re all in this together,” Aardappel said. “We share the same vision of wanting to help and support our students, and for the most part, students pick up on that.”

Aardappel has designed her classroom to make her students feel comfortable as themselves.

As a result, the room usually reflects each student in some way, including the 11th graders’ memoir assignments — a particular favorite for Aardappel, who believes learning about her students allows her to become a better teacher.

While Aardappel could easily relate to all the books she read when she was young, not everyone is the same. For Aardappel, encouraging her students to find interest in literature and language arts means finding connections to their own lives through what they read.

Aardappel said she has been diversifying her students’ books to keep them from remaining the same books in the canon as when she was in high school.

“Relating it to their own lives is the best way to grab their attention,” she said. “It’s finding themselves in it that gets them engaged.”

She focuses on the claim, evidence and reasoning model in her class. It starts with a claim that answers a question, using data as evidence and reasoning as to why the evidence supports the claim—in other words, teaching her students how to back up what they have to say and how to discern truth from lies.

This model is something students can use outside of the classroom in everyday life, Aardappel explained.

Principal Jason Jacobs, who recently became principal in Spring 2021, spoke highly of Aardappel’s ability to connect with students.

“They learn how to trust an adult who gives tirelessly of themselves,” Jacobs said. “EHS wouldn’t be EHS without her.”