A Kansas State University student majoring in agricultural communications and journalism won a $50,000 independent scholarship for an essay about her hero.
Freshman McKayla Brubaker of Delphos, entered Dollar General's "My Teacher, My Hero" essay contest by writing about her high school math teacher Cynthia Beall, or "Mrs. Beall." Brubaker took Beall's geometry and trigonometry classes at Minneapolis High School. Beall also helped her through college algebra during her senior year.
Brubaker said Beall likes making personal connections with students. "She really gets close to us and learns how we learn," she said.
With a natural bent more toward writing instead of math, Brubaker valued the personalized help and encouragement she received from Beall. She said Beall went out of her way to see that she had the help she needed in all of her math classes, even meeting with her up to an hour before school started or during the teacher planning periods to go over material and answer questions.
"For me, Mrs. Beall was really encouraging, and that was really important to me since I struggled with math," Brubaker said.
Beall said her goal for many students is simply to help them become more comfortable with math. "By the time they get to high school, many students have developed a phobia of math," she said. "I want them to feel they can do math and be successful at it."
Beall supports her students in more ways than just academically though. "She goes to nearly every sporting event, even though she lives out of town," Brubaker said. "She's really dedicated to the student body."
As an adviser of Minneapolis High's National Honor Society, Beall also helps students with service projects. "When we did highway cleanup, she'd get her little vest on and her trash bag and gloves and she would go out there and do it with the best attitude," Brubaker said.
Ultimately, Beall's influence on Brubaker—and other students—will last far beyond getting a passing grade in math class. "She helped me to learn you can do anything you set your mind to," Brubaker said. "She taught me not to be afraid to get help, and to be dedicated to what I'm doing."
Beall also agrees the lessons learned through math extend far beyond the classroom. "What students learn in math class more than anything else is structure and discipline," she said.
Brubaker intends to use the prize money to help pay for her education at Kansas State. She also won a trip to Nashville for herself, Beall and two guests, where they attended the Grand Ole Opry and received their prize money. Brubaker's father and Beall's husband accompanied them on the trip.