Karen Yonko of Edinboro, Pa., challenges her students to reach new horizons and develop a passion for learning beyond the classroom. Yonko is one of four recipients of this year’s Clarkson University Inspirational Educator Awards.
The freshman biology teacher at General McLane High School in Edinboro, Pa., was nominated by former student Colton Weaver of Waterford, Pa., a senior innovation and entrepreneur major at Clarkson. The award will be presented during Clarkson’s commencement weekend activities.
Each year, Clarkson asks its seniors to nominate the educators who have significantly affected their lives and helped guide their higher education and career decisions. The award recognizes these educators for their lasting impact on their students and in their fields of education.
Early in the spring term, graduating seniors submit their reasons for choosing their nominees, how they influenced them and actual situations in which they showed themselves to be outstanding educators.
Weaver said Yonko’s tireless dedication to helping her students work toward their goals makes her well-qualified for this honor. He said Yonko demonstrated her compassion for her students by staying late after class and helping students with their projects and motivating them to take on new challenges.
“Looking back on my experiences in high school to the experiences that I have today, a lot has changed, but it was the values that she instilled in me that will last forever,” Weaver said. “To be a diligent worker, a curious learner, with the drive to be successful, all while remaining humble with the willingness to help others are just some of the wonderful things I have learned from her.
“Without these extremely important life skills, I know that I would not have achieved the awesome things I have done today. She would always push me to take on new science projects, to work with local college professors, and to apply to leadership programs, and she would know when I had too much on my plate and would reassure me when I thought I was failing. Her concern for my personal well-being and success was something that was superseded by any other faculty member from my high school; it is something I will never take for granted.”
Weaver added that Yonko taught him diligence and to never give up on the things he cares about.
“These traits are ones that I will carry with me throughout life, passing them along to everyone I know,” he said. “You have given me the tools to lead a successful life, and for that, I cannot be more grateful. Thank you so much for challenge me throughout high school, spending nights after school teaching me how to present and use transparencies (I still hate those), and most of all being an inspiration to me.”
Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.