By Don Lowe
Seneca High School Teacher of the Year recipient Leah Throneberry, who teaches US history and AP US history to juniors and seniors, had a different career in mind at one point in time.
“I actually started off as a vocal performance major wanting to do opera,” Throneberry recalled. “I ended up going to Europe after being a camp counselor in New Hampshire and backpacked around and visited some incredible historical landmarks that made me want to change my major to history.
“I never wanted to be a history teacher. I wanted to be an archeologist and anthropologist, basically Indiana Jones. Once I realized I wanted to do more in history, it just kind of happened that I fell into teaching.
“It honestly wasn’t until my student-teaching year when I was at Webb City High School when it really sunk in that I liked it. I liked getting excited about history.”
As for US history specifically, Throneberry said, “I love that it’s always changing and not the same thing every year. New studies and new perspectives come out all the time. And I love talking about it.”
Throneberry enjoys every aspect of teaching, and she said, “I love that it’s different every year. New kids are a new generation, and they have a different vibe.
“I love the sense of community at school. I love the relationships with the kids, and I particularly love it when they come back and talk about their adventures and how much they learned outside of high school. I love seeing them grow. I love seeing them change.”
It’s all about these young people, and Throneberry said, “I honestly believe my students will change the world. Whether they become engineers that create a new solution to energy or become stay-at-home moms and utilize their positive energy, I believe they will make an impact.”
While Throneberry gets a great deal of satisfaction teaching, the most difficult challenge is when any student struggles. “You just want to do all the right things, but you can’t. They have to want it.”
There’s no doubt Throneberry wants to teach and is quick to credit those who have helped her be successful in this role. “I’m still shocked to have gotten the award (Teacher of the Year) and it would not have happened if I didn’t have a rock-solid administration like my building principals, Dan Hueller and Jeff Brown, supporting me.
“My department has given me the creative freedom to have a truly unique and inclusive classroom that is a welcoming and safe space for my students. I am also lucky enough to have a superintendent, Dr. Brandon Eggleston, who saw me as an aspiring teacher early on and gave me my first job at Seneca.”
Adding more perspective, Throneberry said, “Great teachers are not just born. They are made by the encouragement of the administration and leadership that guides them through their examples.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to have the best examples at Seneca, and my success is their success, because we truly are a family and a community that cares for one another. I’m so thankful for being part of this experience and being a staff member at Seneca High School.”
Seneca Teacher of the Year Leah Throneberry Fast Facts
Spouse: Brad Throneberry
Children: Logan Wayne Throneberry (5 years old) and Daisy Faye Throneberry (9 months old)
Profession: US History and AP US History Teacher at Seneca High School
College: University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Missouri Southern State University (MSSU)
Degree: History degree (University of Colorado) and Bachelor of Teaching in Social Sciences (MSSU)
Favorite U.S. History Event: All the Cold War, specifically the 1980 Winter Olympics and the perception of Russian athletes in America (i.e., Miracle on Ice hockey game is my favorite thing to talk about from the Russian perspective).
Away from the Classroom: I play soccer with my son. I enjoy running marathons, and my goal is to do a triathlon this summer. My kids at home and school keep me busy, but I do enjoy a good book or two.
See more photos in our January 2022 print edition