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APPLE FOR TEACHER: Cape teacher who started after Ian among honored educators

All 12th graders in Lee County schools were asked to write letters to the teacher who inspired them during this year's Teacher Appreciation Week.
Posted at 5:03 PM, May 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-06 17:30:17-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla — Stop for a minute and think: is there a teacher or mentor in your life who made you a better person as you were growing up?

Students in Cape Coral and elsewhere in Lee County are spending this week sharing shout-outs for the local teachers who have had an impact on them in many different ways.

The accolades come during this Teacher Appreciation Week, and all 12th-grade students at Lee County Schools were given an assignment to write a letter to a teacher who inspired them.

Lee County Schools Superintendent Interim Ken Savage
Lee County Schools' Interim Superintendent Ken Savage reads a 12th grader's letter honoring a Mariner High School teacher on May 6, 2024.

On Monday, Fox 4's Mahmoud Bennett was with with Lee County Superintendent Ken Savage, as the district leader read out some heartfelt letters to teachers working in Cape classrooms.

"I'm sincerely grateful for all the altruistic guidance you've given me," read a portion of the letter written by 12th grader Chanelle Williams for Mr. David Castaneda, who she credits with helping her become the person she is today.

"I came in the second semester of my junior year a couple of months after you became an instructor at Mariner. And during that time, I felt insecure, unwelcome, and disheartened because I had to switch schools...It was your act of kindness by simply speaking to me and getting to know me that made the difference for the rest of my high school years."

Chanelle Willams, 12th grader, Mariner High School

Mr. Castaneda, visibly touched by the surprise, told Fox 4's Bennett: "That's a good feeling."

Reflecting on his role as an educator, Castaneda said, "I have roughly 125 students, and that's 125 ways that I'm being changed... You know I'm changing them as well, but at the same time, I'm learning something from every one of these students."

Cape Coral Teacher David Castaneda Mariner High School
Mariner High School teacher David Castaneda joined the team after Hurricane Ian. He's seen here talking about his work with more than 100 students in Cape Coral.

"There's not one student that hasn't taught me one small thing," Castaneda added.

Several other letters from students across Lee County highlighted the impact of teachers' support, leadership, and kindness.

"You have made an imprint on the person I am today who knows maybe we will become coworkers some today. Sincerely, Morgan Boucher," read one of the letters.

Student appreciation letters lee county teacher appreciation week 2024
An example of a framed letter from a Mariner High School student thanking a teacher for their positive influence in Cape Coral.

For the remainder of Teacher Appreciation Week, the Lee County School District is encouraging students to do a number of activities to show their support and appreciation for their teachers, including wearing their teacher's favorite color, bringing in a sweet treat, and writing them a letter.