Teacher creates lasting, influential bond with students

Early in the morning, a student walks into room 6160, the newspaper and yearbook classroom, but they aren’t there to order a yearbook or snap a photo. Tears roll down their cheeks as the weight of the world seems to be bearing down on their shoulders, telling them they aren’t good enough. For many students, this may happen more often than they would like to admit, but it is something that teacher Rebecca Dominy embraces as an opportunity to connect with her students and let them know someone is there for them.

Over the past 12 years, Dominy has fulfilled her passion for teaching by reaching out to students on a personal level. For her, teaching is more than a job to earn a living, it is a means through which she can pursue her passion for helping others.

“I knew I wanted to teach since I was a sophomore in high school,” Dominy said. “I loved school, I loved learning, and I loved the fact that there were people willing to pour into my life the way my teachers did.”

However, at the start of her teaching career, Dominy was faced with a test of her faith when she was offered a position teaching journalism at Onalaska High School.

“A couple of days after [I accepted the job], God really started working on my heart and I felt He was telling me that I wasn’t supposed to be there,” Dominy said. “In probably the biggest step of faith in my life thus far, I resigned a week after I accepted the position. I had no other job lined up and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I knew it wouldn’t be teaching in Onalaska. I spent most of the summer trying to find another teaching position, but it was later in the summer and positions were becoming more scarce. Then one day, Mrs. Prejean called and offered me an English position and I immediately took it. I taught English for one year before Mrs. Farris moved downtown and I took over as the journalism teacher.”

Dominy found the perfect position, teaching newspaper and yearbook, while interacting with her students to develop their skills.

“There are so many aspects about journalism that I enjoy,” Dominy said. “I love the layout and design side of yearbook and I love the stories that can be told about our students and teachers that may go unheard without a school newspaper staff. Mostly though, I love the relationship my classes provide.”

Although these moments bring joy to Dominy and her students, the power and influence that the relationships she has built with her students are worth more than the awards and recognition the journalism staff has received.

“I’d trade all [the awards] for the moments when a student realizes that they do have value, that someone does care about them, and that they can do something with their life,” Dominy said. “Awards and recognition for a job well done are awesome things, but helping to change the way a student sees themselves for the better is irreplaceable. I fight for every one of my students and sometimes they are responsive and sometimes they aren’t, but I can’t change that. What I can control is how I treat them and just pray that some part of our relationship benefits them down the road, that they take something positive from spending 50 minutes with me each day.”

For some of Dominy’s past students, her efforts have impacted their lives in more than just the classroom, leaving lasting life lessons.

“When I started taking newspaper my freshmen year of high school, I was shy and afraid to speak-up,” former student Emily Nash said. “By senior year, I was editor of the newspaper and I had become a leader. Mrs. Dominy helped me not only become a stronger writer, but become a stronger person in general. She helped shape who I am now.”

While some teachers may adopt a less involved approach with their students, Dominy takes the time to invest herself, both academically and personally.

“It’s comforting to have a teacher who cares so much about all her students individually and as a group,” senior Perla Cruz said. “[My favorite memory has been] all the times in Theory of Knowledge when [Dominy] would tell me ‘Do your work. Get on the computer,’ because it showed how much she really cares about us.”

Another way that Dominy connects with students is through her Bible study club – Cord of 3. This group began with a couple of students that Dominy had and has since grown into a tight-knit community of students involved in various activities.

“It’s a great group of kids and has morphed and changed over the three years to always meet the needs of the students attending,” Dominy said. “It has provided an outlet for students to express their fears and struggles in a safe environment where their peers can show their support. They have been a great group for me to work with and have encouraged me as much as I’ve tried to encourage them.”

A spiritual group such as Cord allows the students involved to not only express what struggles they are going through but allows them to pour into other students and gives them an adult whom they can confide in.

“When kids are struggling, they usually think they are alone; that they are the only one going through that particular struggle, but that is damaging and untrue,” Dominy said. “I want students to know that there are others struggling with the same issues, that there are people who will listen to them, and that they can change the path their life is on if they want to. I want kids to know that they are surrounded daily by adults who get up each morning wanting to help them succeed and become better than they were the day before.”

Dominy purused teaching to help students succeed and understand that there are people there for them during such a difficult stage of life.

“As cliche as it may sound, I teach because I want to make a difference,” Dominy said. “I teach because I know it’s tough to be a teenager and I hope I’m able to be something stable when so much of a student’s life is uncertain. I think people forget that teaching isn’t a business; it’s a relationship. For a student to learn content, and truly grasp the subject frequently, they must first build a relationship. I know my content will come. I know I will help students become better writers. I know we will produce amazing pieces of work, but the subject isn’t my focus, their heart is.”

Dominy’s efforts have helped students grow and, by offering advice whenever she can, guides them through the difficult high school years as best as she can.

“[Dominy] was a huge influence on the decisions I made in high school,” Nash said. “My peers and I used to ask ourselves ‘what would Doms say?’ before making a decision. Teenagers are vulnerable and lost, and having an adult figure in addition to my parents to help lead the way was incredibly important. Mrs. Dominy acted as that figure for me and for so many other students.”

Not only do Dominy’s students benefit from her classes both academically and personally, Dominy also reaps positive values and joy from sowing into student’s lives daily.

“The students are my favorite part of teaching,” Dominy said. “They are the only reason I get up and come to work every day.”