Sarah Brown Wessling makes an IMPACT.
I was a quiet high schooler, unsure of my mind and my place in the world. I participated on the periphery, preferring to watch rather than act. I spent my time reading and writing. My journals from these years are epic and hilarious and my book shelves were packed with well loved paperbacks.
I entered Sarah's AP English class apprehensively. Her classroom was not a place to hide. Students will often say, "Ms. Wessling was the first person to SEE me," and I could not agree more with that statement. Outside of my family, who knew my sassy self to the core, Ms. Wessling was the first person to identify me as a strong thinking, a leader, and someone who could create for myself.
Years later, while I was living in Rochester, NY and working as a photographer, Sarah contacted me via Facebook. She wanted my permission to share my journey and profession with her classroom. Again, my first reaction was, "Why me?" and again, Sarah was the first person to tell me that what I was doing was important and different.
Sarah gave me the tools I need to think critically about my life and choices. Now that I own my own business, Sarah is right by my side, but now she occasionally asks my advice and seeks my guidance. I am able to walk beside her, giving knowledge as I receive. She is my cheerleader, challenger, thought provoker and festival buddy. She is my inspiration, my foundation and my reflection.
Words from Molly Hanson, Executive Director of Iowa River Revival: Class of 2005
Sarah is an amazing person for so many reasons. One of my favorite aspects of our relationship is how it has changed over and over again and will most definitely continue on that trajectory.
I first met her as a student in her AP English class at Johnston High School. Being a recovering high school over-achiever, it still irks me a little bit to call her Sarah rather than Ms. Wessling. I was an English nerd obsessed with moody beats writers. Sarah took an interest, always making a point of noticing me and whatever book I happened to be reading at the time. I was always flattered that she cared and was impressed by my selections. Her classroom pushed me out of my comfort zone, expanding not just my thoughts - but the way I thought. With her leadership, I was introduced to poetry, Shakespeare, symbolism, the male-dominated cannon, and perhaps most importantly for my career, grant writing. I loved her AP English class and have since been back to help teach lessons in grant writing.
With curiosity and adventure as two of my dominant forces, I went on to become a well-read science major. I am constantly in awe of the magnificence of the planet and our universe. But even with my outdoorsy side, I still relish any opportunity to escape into a good book. And I still love talking about them with Sarah. Since high school, we have become friends. We've danced at each others' birthday parties, gone on long runs to work through the stresses of adult life, swapped graphic novels, hung out with each others' families, and have motivated each other to push through challenges and examine what it means to be on the other side. She is still a mentor, but now she is also a peer, inspiration, confidant and a dear friend.
At her 40th birthday party, Sarah made cards for each attendee containing the word that came to mind when she thought of them. The word on my card was fearless. Everyday, I try to live that truth she has seen in me for the last decade. Her students, as well as her friends, are lucky to have her. I am lucky to have her.
Words from Meredith Luksetich, Animal Lover and Administrative Assistant at ISG, Class of 2009
I see myself as an articulate, big picture thinker. With every decision, I consider the whole scope of the problem. Where am I? Where do I want to go? Who do I want to be and how am I going to get there? Or, perhaps most importantly, am I already there? I attribute these bigger picture thoughts and questions directly towards Ms. Wessling's challenging classroom.
Ms. Wessling always had a different way of teaching. I remember walking into her classroom and feeling as though I was finally breathing fresh air. In her space, I knew my ideas and my work were never wrong, but I could challenge myself to improve upon them. Now that I'm older and navigating adulthood, I find I find my brain multi-tasking and working through the best way to approach something or someone.
The biggest impact Mrs. Wessling made on me is how I think and create now that I'm an adult. I am more confident in public speaking, writing, and the way I read and comprehend not only the words on the page, but the world around me. She isn’t just teaching English at Johnston High School, she is teaching students how to think for themselves in the most creative and challenging ways - ensuring our future successful. I can say with confidence, that every student of Ms. Wessling is going to have a strong, positive memory of Mrs. Wessling, whatever their ‘success’ might be.