Position: Math Teacher School: Lighthouse High School
School District: Carbon School District
City, State: Price, Utah
About the Nominee: Wes Thompson was nominated by his superintendent, Steve Carlsen.
Lighthouse High School (LHS) is Carbon School District's alternative high school. Wes Thompson is its math teacher and unofficial assistant principal. He is a jack of all trades, but most importantly, he truly touches kids' lives. LHS is a school that is run on immediate reward feedback; if the students are performing well academically and behaviorally, they are rewarded in a variety of ways, most notably with trips and outings. Mr. Thompson is the head cook and bottle washer on these trips. He is also the one in the middle of activities. For instance, "Float Your Boat" is a team building activity for the students. Boats are made of cardboard and duct tape and taken to a local lake to see if they float. Each team has 2-5 members, all of whom have to get in and paddle about 400 yards. Mr. Thompson is a 6-year US Navy Veteran, and each year, he and his fellow teachers build the best boat. After the maiden voyage, he lets the kids all go and float it for most of the day.
Mr. Thomson touches students' lives in the classroom as well. Most students at LHS are there for credit recovery, and most of them have problems with math. He does such a great job teaching his students that they learn to love math. His growth scores in Utah's end-of-year tests are outstanding.
Each year at graduation, either the salutatorian, valedictorian or both talk about Mr. Thompson and how he has changed their lives. After graduation, there are always parents and graduates who share how much LHS has meant to them. Tears of joy and thankfulness are openly shared and shed. Mr. Thompson is always mentioned in those touching times after the ceremonies.
He is also a self taught guitar player and a great singer. Next year, he is starting a class where he will teach guitar, stage sound and lighting, crafts and a multitude of art type activities. The class will be bursting at the seams, similar to the movie "School of Rock." He has already reached many kids through music, and has helped them come out of their shells and blossom.
As a role model, Mr. Thompson is the right guy for the job of being at LHS. The majority of LHS students are male, and many of them come from broken or dysfunctional homes. Mr. Thompson is the perfect role model for them; his own personal story is not that different from theirs. He came from a broken home, but through education, he was able to attend the US Navy's Nuclear Power School and serve for six years in the Gulf War on a nuclear powered battle ship. Over 600 young navy shipmates started in the program, but after the intense academic rigors, only 75 remained in the program at its completion. Mr. Thompson was one of them. He uses his real world experiences to demonstrate to the students how one can be successful if willing to put in the hard work and persist.
Mr. Thompson is a LifeChanger, and he will continue to be one, not for accolades or money, but because he loves his students.