"He was my 6th grade teacher but I like to think of him as the Superhero of Imagination."
So began the letter by young Mensan Aiden D., who nominated Benjamin Rudolph for the 2017 Distinguished Teacher Award, which recognizes a teacher's positive influence on the education or life of a Mensa member.
Rudolph teaches 6th grade Advanced Academics at Keene Mill Elementary in Springfield, Va. His "superhero" powers include the Google20time Project, in which students spend the entire school year developing a research question, finding existing information about the topic, and then creating a "product" that demonstrates their learning.
"I have always found that building relationships with students and parents is the best way to create a learning environment in which kids feel safe to take chances and work together," Rudolph says. "I am essentially a larger, older 6th grader at heart, so I like to make my classroom a fun and engaging place to discover and learn."
What many teachers would have labeled as disruptive behavior, he recognized as boredom and a need for additional mental stimulation.
To illustrate the culture of caring in Rudolph's classroom, Keene Mill Elementary Principal Renee Miller recounted the story of another parent, who said of Rudolph: "He is one of those teachers who stretches beyond the norm and reaches his students by recognizing and capitalizing on their intellect, creativity, and individual motivation. Our personal experience with Mr. Rudolph was nothing short of life changing."
"What many teachers would have labeled as disruptive behavior, he recognized as boredom and a need for additional mental stimulation. He worked closely with us, turning what could have been a very negative scenario into a constructive, fascinating environment for our son, expanding his imagination and challenging him with innovative techniques that sparked his curiosity."