Dear Mrs. Dutton

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By: Meghan Serceki | Opinion Editor

October 13, 2016

One of San Clemente High School’s valued English teachers, Mrs. Caroline Dutton, will celebrate her birthday this Saturday, October 15, 2016. Teaching for twelve years, her skills, knowledge, and kindness have–and continue to–touch the lives of many.

While studying individuation, psychiatrist Carl Jung observed that “one looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Mrs. Dutton, every day, not only grants students with the knowledge necessary to live up to their full potential, but also inspires many, instilling a love for education and a passion for life in those so fortunate to learn from her. I am one of those students.

My first day in her class my freshman year, I remember feeling a bit agitated since my schedule had been changed for the third time in the course of two days, and I had no idea what to expect from her. As I introduced myself and asked where I should sit, her kind demeanor immediately put my anxiety at ease, and, by the end of the class, all my qualms had been put to rest. Her knowledge materialized immediately and her altruism shone. Over two years later, I still continuously come to her for advice on essays and anything else I need help with. Her light blue door remains open to all her students, and she is always glad to help. She has never once complained about the extra work I create for her, and she always goes out of her way to assist and encourage me no matter what.

Besides myself, Ms. Dutton has touched the lives of numerous other students. Peyton Gadbury, grade 10, had Ms. Dutton her freshman year for English I Honors and reflects, “Mrs. Dutton is one of the most amazing teachers I’ve ever met. She’s very caring and understanding and overall a teacher who cares about her students and wants them to succeed. I don’t know where I would be without her guidance that she provided my freshman year and the advice she continues to give me when I visit her. She’s the type of teacher that you tell your kids about- truly someone who makes an impact on your life. Thank you Mrs. Dutton!”

Similarly, Caitlyn Klemm, grade 11, notes, “Dutton is a smart, intelligent teacher who puts in the extra mile to get to know her students and to help educate them on their path to college,” recognizing the immense amount of devotion and kindness Mrs. Dutton holds for her students. Currently Mrs. Dutton’s student, Chloe Kenney, grade 11, expresses, “I feel like I can’t put into words how great Ms. Dutton is. She manages to always make class thought-provoking, interesting, and intriguing, and she’s just an altogether incredible, funny, and compassionate person.”

Every day at lunch and tutorial, students gather in her classroom, asking her questions and seeking counsel. She helps them without fail–whether or not they are or were at some point in her class–providing them with extra resources, editing and revising their essays with them, and answering any of their questions. Each year, she writes over thirty letters of recommendation for her former students, individualizing each one and spending ample time editing and writing them to ensure they capture each student’s unique characteristics and virtues. According to Mrs. Dutton, “I think I spend forty hours every year writing letters of rec,” which amounts to nearly a full week of unpaid work. She undertakes all of this simply out of her commitment to the students of San Clemente and to her calling as an educator.

Mrs. Dutton, up until this year, taught English I Honors and IB/AP Language and Composition. This year, however, she has expanded her horizons even more and took on a section of English Language Development, helping to ensure that all students gain an exemplary English education whether already skilled or just beginning their journey. Teaching an array of subjects, she devises three separate lesson plans every day and manages to keep her students motivated, engaged, and learning every moment of every class. She spends hours of her free time grading essays and providing ample feedback on each assignment so as to help her students improve and learn.img_4815

Although she claims she doesn’t get out much, Mrs. Dutton spends time with her family–her daughter, husband, and stepson–and her pets when she isn’t working, cleaning, grading essays, writing letters of recommendation, or running errands. Recently, the Duttons adopted a rescue puppy, Lucky, and her cats, Simba and Buddha, even have their own Instagram account. Over the summers, they retreat to their home in Pavones, Costa Rica, where they surf and relax and where Mrs. Dutton begins planning for the next year of teaching, reading The Oxford Book of Essays and coming up with new ideas to improve her already-brilliant classes.

Happy birthday, Mrs. Dutton, and, from all the students at San Clemente, thank you for your unceasing hard work, dedication, and kindness.

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