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Clark High teacher aims to pay it forward as mentor

Luanne Wagner knew from an early age that she wanted to be a teacher.

It was Sue Hughes, one of her teachers at Western High, who molded her into the educator she is today.

“She showed me that it’s OK as a teacher to be there for your students, that it was important to be there for them,” Wagner said recently, holding back tears as she discussed her mentor’s impact.

And that’s just the kind of educator Wagner aims to be at Clark High.

On top of her teaching duties — which includes inspiring future educators in the Teach Academy, one of three magnet programs at Clark — Wagner oversees the KEEN Club, which stands for “Keeping Everyone’s Eyes on the Neighborhood.”

The club emphasizes community service and operates the Charger Closet, which offers toiletries, food and other necessities to students who need them.

It’s that kind of work that made Wagner one of 20 teachers honored recently with Heart of Education awards. The third annual awards, sponsored by the Rogers Foundation and The Smith Center, invite residents to nominate outstanding teachers.

Wagner and the others were selected from more than 750 finalists, winning a $5,000 cash prize and $1,000 for a program of her choice. She plans to put that money toward the Charger Closet.

“It gives affirmation to my students that if you just work hard and you do the right thing, and you give back, that people do notice,” she said. “People do notice. And I want them to see that there is good in this world.”

Wagner and her son, an elementary school teacher, also started a nonprofit as another financial resource to assist students in need.

The after-school KEEN Club also helps spread that ethos, teaching students to appreciate the value of helping fellow students.

“We leave a mark here, and that’s what I like,” said senior Horacio Montoya.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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