The day before seventh grade, I met my new case manager for special education. He had a confident appearance, a deep robust voice, and his name was Mr. Muehls. I have struggled with anxiety most my life, and when I met Mr. Muehls, my chest constricted and tears threatened to poke through. I wondered if my hesitation of him would subside, and thankfully, by all means, it did. My initial fear was replaced by friendship, paranoia turned to patience, and my chest began to unravel it’s nervous nature.
Mr. Muehls is a special education teacher, a chess club teacher, a father, a veteran, and a friend. Even when I was not a student, he attended my swim meets and plays, which ended with a huge hug and a “hey Kiddo!”
I nominate Mr. Muehls for this award because he has gone beyond the call of duty as an educator, mentor, motivator, and friend.
Mr. Muehls has a boisterous voice that could engulf anyone who listened. He’d tell us stories in study hall about his time in Desert Storm, how when they drove in, the locals put a camel head on a spike. Naturally, I worried for him, but it made me blurt “The poor camel!” and he laughed a full hearted, jolly laugh and continued on. These stories took me away from my fishbowl called Hartland, and taught me of vivid oceans with exotic fish. Because of him, he made me think outside the fishbowl, to think of cultures, conflicts, and the world in a different light.
He kept knickknacks, from WWII dioramas and 1930’s Time magazines to chess and snow globes. His room was like home. It was a place I could feel safe and not worry. Those small treasures steadied my shaky hands which kept me calm, and encouraged me to explore history through antique helmets, magazines, and toy soldiers. I studied what magazines were like in the nineteen thirties, and looked at the different colors and shapes of helmets from different wars. Ultimately, I learned a lot about WWII and Mr. Muehls inspired me to learn more.
In the past, I developed a rationale that I proclaimed to Mr. Muehls repeatedly: “If I don’t get good grades, I won’t go to college, and then I will be living in a cardboard box.” (I was only thirteen.) We sat down at one of his tables next to the chess boards, and he calmed me down and gently explained that I will not live in a cardboard box, that I am bright. He suggested that if I needed help with anything…I should just ask. From those talks, he helped me organize binders, edit papers, calculate math problems, and quell my fears. Because of Mr. Muehls, I am now able to handle my anxiety. I’m also now fascinated by history, and I want to be a teacher—just like him.
Mr. Muehls is a brilliant and vibrant star. He is the reason I can organize, trust people, and work hard everyday. Without him, I may not have been living in a cardboard box, but I would have never realized my love for history, gotten through school, or even realized the world around me.
All my words here are just a fraction of gratitude and love for Mr. Muehls, and they cannot do him enough justice. So, if you take anything away from this essay, it’s this: I would rather be homeless and live in a cardboard box with my star shining on me, than never have known him.