by Kim Cameron
Six years ago, Mr. Andrew Mericle began teaching 7th-grade language arts and social studies in Kremmling. His first West Grand class is this year’s graduating class, and their fond memories of him propelled them to ask him to be the commencement speaker.
Deservedly, Mr. Mericle’s colleagues also recognized him as West Grand’s Teacher of the Year in May.
Of his recognition as Teacher of the Year, Mr. Mericle says modestly, “All I have learned has been from my colleagues and mentor administrators… both at Life Christian Academy in Oklahoma City and here at West Grand. I emphatically and humbly say that any recognition I receive is because of them, and I thank them and share this honor with them.”
In the classroom, Mr. Mericle consciously draws on his life experiences in insurance and pastoral ministry to drive home life-long lessons for students. Even though teaching may be his first aspiration, he came to it later in life and has now taught for the last 15 years. He taught in Oklahoma before moving to Colorado for “a change of climate and scenery.” Mr. Mericle settled in Granby, but serendipitously, the only teaching vacancies were at West Grand.
Mr. Mericle has become a beloved educator at West Grand, and his lessons have extended beyond the classroom. When his former students were asked what they enjoyed most about Mr. Mericle’s classroom, they mention how he is inclusive, keeps everyone humble by “roasting” them, has high expectations, and encourages them to think. They also recall how he uses his own experiences to impart life lessons. One student states, “He is such an amazing storyteller; he can make anything interesting.”
Another student appreciates how he taught reasoning and debate, “It was very obvious that he tried to keep all of his opinions non-biased while he was teaching. He always represented both sides of the argument fairly – from Elon Musk to President Biden, he never took a side. This showed how important it is in life to have conversations with non-biased opinions. I was always thankful in class for this because there was no worry of being on the wrong side.”
During the commencement speech, Mr. Mericle recalled how the graduating class was his first to make pyramids from sugar cubes, how they competed in United Nations, and how many of them traveled to Washington, DC, together.
He peppered his message to his first West Grand class with his well-known humor and quotes from President John F. Kennedy. He stressed that the world is crying out for greatness. He defined true greatness as, “A mindset, a consciousness, an attitude… a lifestyle… alive in your head and heart,” and he challenged each graduate to make a difference.
He charged them to greatness in four areas – laughter, learning, living and loving.
He challenged them to combat stress, strengthen human connections, and stay positive and hopeful with laughter. He challenged them to always be curious,and to learn something new to keep themselves relevant, flexible and vibrant. He challenged them to live with greatness to find and hone their purpose, all the while appreciating life itself and the beauty of their surroundings. Lastly, he stated the importance of loving with greatness – to give of yourself and serve others passionately.
These four challenges are mirrored by Mr. Mericle as an educator and in life.
A student shares, “He is such a deep thinker, and he displays that so well in the way he teaches his students. Within the first days of being in his class, I knew that I was going to be pushed to grow and that I was going to love being his student… I learned critical thinking, how to write, and how to study. I grew in ways of knowing the basis of cultures around the world, and I left his class with a better understanding of people. In his class, we did group projects that helped us become better communicators, leaders, and listeners. I learned so many important life lessons because of the stories he told and the examples he gave. He asked us questions so that we could understand ourselves and the world around us better.”
Next year, Mr. Mericle will be moving into a new role as the 6th-12th grade College and Career Coordinator. “I want to help students visualize and pursue their goals and ambitions… to help them impact the future for all of us in a positive way.”
A West Grand student shares he has already accomplished this. She writes to him, “You have made such an impact on many students’ lives… So, on behalf of the students at West Grand and myself, we would truly like to say thank you for everything you’ve done.”