30 years of dedication to Sunset

Sunset High School has seen many changes through the years, from adopting new curricula  to administration changes, but Valarie Nichols and Stephanie Blankenship have been a constant source of support to students for more than three decades.

As English teachers, they have been committed to encouraging students to overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential.  

“Adapting to changes has been challenging, especially with the increasing emphasis on standardized tests,” Nichols said.

As Nichols reflects on becoming campus Teacher of the Year and being recognized in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, she finds her proudest accomplishments extend beyond accolades. Blankenship finds great fulfillment in the strong relationships she has built with both students and colleagues.

Their paths to teaching are as diverse as their experiences in the classroom. 

Blankenship’s motivation to pursue a career in education was solidified by the influential English instructors she had during her high school years.

“In high school, all four of my English teachers played a big role in my decision to major in English and pursue teaching,” she said.

For Nichols, a serendipitous journey led her from aspirations of becoming a psychiatrist to discovering her true calling in the classroom, thanks to the encouragement from her father and mentors.

“For me, it was a whole roundabout way,” Nichols said, recounting her transition from radio, television, film with a minor in psychology to substitute teaching, to a fulfilling career in education.

Their dedication to their students goes beyond just imparting knowledge.

Nichols emphasized the importance of being true to oneself: “I’ve learned to embrace the oddness and stay true to who I am, which allows me to be there for my students in ways others might not.”

Blankenship shared a quote from Maya Angelou: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” To her, the quote highlights the profound impact teachers can have on students’ lives.

During Teacher Appreciation Week—which recognizes and celebrates the profound influence educators have on shaping the future—they celebrate their 30 years at Sunset High School and  continue to impart invaluable lessons, both inside and outside the classroom.


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