People says that its offices were flooded with applications following an open call for the magazine's first ever Teacher of the Year nominations. Among them was one for Arwen Imai Matthews, who teaches introductory physics and chemistry to eighth graders at KIPP 3D Academy Middle School in Houston. KIPP also operates in Dallas and has 125 schools across the country.
It's not hard to see why Matthews was selected as one of five educators for Teacher of the Year.
"I want to leave the world a better place than I found it," Arwen Imai Matthews told People.
The 31-year-old Teach for America alumna is tireless in her pursuits, running the robotics club, founding the science fair, heading up the school's science department, writing grant applications for additional funding, playing Dungeons & Dragons with other science teachers and engineers, carrying her first child and teaching her classes — all while serving as a role model and mentor for past and current female students.
"She's often on the phone giving advice," principal Alison Cumbley explained to People. "Arwen takes her bond with students very seriously. Those bonds aren't cut when the school year is over."
Cumbley described Matthews as a "science magician," crediting the teacher for sparking a love for the subject in her students (the startling majority of whom are low-income) and with improving the tenor of the department as a whole.
"I want to leave the world a better place than I found it," Matthews told People of her inspiration for becoming a teacher. "When I'm gone, I hope there's some part of me still existing that reflects what I've done."