Four years ago, he was protecting America.
Now, Lt. Col. Robert West is on a new kind of mission; he’s set out to make the Class of 2013 the most memorable of them all. This kind of dedication to the purple and gold led him to make an impact on all of Bronco Nation.
On Jan. 7, it also earned him the highest honor a teacher can receive at Denton High School; Teacher of the Year. And according to his peers and students alike, he deserves it.
Cadet Maj. Katelin Pegg, a senior, is one of the students West has impacted over the years, and she earnestly agrees with the school’s decision to honor him.
“He definitely deserved Teacher of the Year; he makes it a point to be personal with all of his students,” Pegg said. “He listens to all of our problems and leads us to the right decisions. He’s more than just a teacher.”
Pegg describes West as a compassionate and caring teacher.
“Col. West is definitely my favorite teacher because he always pushes us to do the best we can,” Pegg said. “He likes to put drive into students. He’s one of the best staff members at DHS.”
Sarah Hirsch, physical education department head, had the responsibility of nominating West for Teacher of the Year, and she agrees with Pegg.
“I nominated him because he’s all about the kids; the way he motivates them is just amazing,” Hirsch said. “The philosophies he teaches by are just awesome.”
However, West never pictured he’d be accepting this award, or even be a teacher for that matter. He wasn’t the best student academically throughout high school and had dreams of being a professional baseball player, but those dreams soon faded when reality hit him during college. At The University of Maine, he came to realize what he was destined to do for the next 24 years while talking to the Air Force ROTC recruiter on campus.
“A recruiter on campus with the AFROTC asked me if I wanted to fly, but I didn’t think I was smart enough to,” West said. “The more he tried to convince me, the more I thought about it, and I ended up flying for 24 years with a smile on my face.”
West worked his way up to be an advanced concepts project engineer, a job designated to protect the airspace above the White House, but there was one problem with the job that he couldn’t get over.
“I never got to see my kids on a regular basis in that position, so I had to find another job to where I’d be closer to them,” West said.
Therefore, West looked for a position near Oklahoma, where his kids lived, and after not finding luck with the F-35 fighter program in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, West set his sights on teaching.
“A buddy of mine told me about the Air Force Junior ROTC, and at first I was like ‘Are you kidding me? I don’t want to work at a high school just to baby sit some snobby-nosed kids,’ but after thinking about it some more, I grew fonder of the position and decided to do it,” West said.
So West started at Denton High in March 2009, winning Teacher of the Year just four years later, an award that he is honored to receive and immensely proud of.
“I was extremely honored just to be nominated,” West said. “To have someone come up to me and say, ‘You are our No. 1 pick,’ out of all of the great staff members it could have been was amazing.”
West thinks he was selected as Teacher of the Year because of how much he cares about students. He’s here for the students, not the paycheck, he said.
“I don’t really consider this a job,” West said. “I like to be here, I like the kids that I work with. This isn’t a job to me; it’s not about the money. I care about my students, and I care about DHS as a whole. We have some incredible kids at this high school, and I’m proud to be a Bronco.”
He’s here to stay.
“I’ve been put into positions where I can affect people in positive ways, in the Air Force and at DHS,” West said. “I don’t have any regrets because I feel blessed here. God put me at DHS for a reason.”
TAYLOR BROWN is a senior at Denton High School and a participant in the Denton Record-Chronicle’s “Speak Out Loud” writing program for student journalists.