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High school is tough. Students like me are expected to juggle a social life and college readiness exams, while also completing various classes geared towards “creating effective leaders”—and keep on smiling through it all. The luckiest of us have an intricate web of sideline cheerleaders, from great friends to caring family members and sympathetic teachers.

Some of us only get one of the three. Those of us who cling on to a special teacher, because we may be lacking in these other areas of support, know about the unique bond you can have with this particular cheerleader. Having your go-to person within walking distance while you trudge through the battleground of high school is empowering.

Patrick Diemert was my cheerleader. To this day we still talk, and I consult him on any major decision in my life. He’s talked me off the ledge more times than I can count and pushed me towards fulfilling my biggest aspirations. We developed our bond over a year of U.S. History where I continually excelled under his supervision. I say supervision, because he wasn’t one of those overbearing teachers who felt they truly knew everything. He was this easy to talk to, approachable dude who helped me through some tough battles.

I had just come out as a lesbian the year before, so my sexuality was still a buzzing topic for many of my classmates. I wanted to die when a former girlfriend of mine was in that class. I cried and complained to him more times than I bet he wished to hear, but my favorite thing about coming to him was that he didn’t pity me. He didn’t pat my back and tell me everything would be fine. He was straight up with me; he talked to me like I was his equal, and these types of straightforward, respectful interactions really shaped me as a person. Now, my biggest fear is losing this intense bond I’ve created with this incredibly empowering man.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Patrick’s younger brother, Nick Diemert, a brand-spanking new teacher at Gulf Coast High School who teaches the same class as his brother. He’s my go-to when I need a laugh. Though Patrick also has a direct line to my funny bone, Nick is like a 17-year-old trapped in a 27-year-old body.

Teachers like these two inspiring adults are what push students to excel, and they deserve special attention during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Alyssa Candelmo is a student representative of GLSEN Collier County.

Have a teacher you’d like to thank? Show your appreciation during Teacher Appreciation Week by purchasing this bouquet from Teleflora for 20 percent off. Ten percent of proceeds will benefit GLSEN’s work to make schools safe and affirming for all students.