Behind the Benner

Looking at El Modena’s two decade dedicated teacher, Mr. Benner before he leaves


   Mr. Benner is a teacher hundreds of students on campus can recall with one, two, or even a myriad of funny or fond memories throughout their time at El Modena, but his influence started long before any of these students were even a thought in their parents head. 

   When I sat down with this El Mo icon, he recalls his start at this school back in the year of 2000, and his role since then has changed significantly. Back in the beginning of his time here, he was the history teacher for the CTP department and had enjoyed it immensely. Benner recalled the economics unit as one of his favorites and it was here that he got his first look at the potential the students of El Modena possess. During this unit students were to create their own business and Mr. Benner recalls one of the students’ creations, named the “Shimmy-Shaba-Shake-Shack”, raising over $3,000 one of the years that he taught these classes. 

   However, it was 3 years into teaching at El Modena that the Advanced Placement classes, known by everyone as AP classes, opened up and Mr. Benner saw himself gravitating towards them. Since their debut on campus, Benner has taught 4 separate AP classes (during this interview he cited 5, but was soon thereafter corrected), AP World History, AP European History, AP Seminar, and AP Human Geography. He also spoke out about how pushing for many of these AP classes, as well as other classes on campus like History of Rock and Roll, was one of his greatest accomplishments. Mr. Benner claimed “I think they are very important classes to take,” but I speak for everyone when I say that the curriculum along with his anecdotes, humor, and relatability makes these classes a privilege rather than requisite. 

   When asked about his impact on campus, Mr. Benner became flustered and humble in a sense, stating “I would say the students have impacted me on this campus.” He goes on to mention how throughout the years, it was students coming up to him to become an advisor for clubs. “That was you guys [Lillian Mummert, Isabella Perez, Jacob Rodriguez, and Emily Mai] coming to me and asking to do that… Students advocating for themselves has been, to me, a very special thing and I’m glad to do what little I can do.” 

   However his modesty will not deter others from recognizing the significant impact he has had on the campus and student body alike. When speaking about Mr. Benner, there was a large amount of those who held extremely high regards. This ranged from El Modena Alumni Sarah Ando, who was involved in Mr. Benner’s classes like AP Seminar and AP World History, contributing her newfound love for history to him, and Senior Amara Pisetsky wrote “His classroom is somewhere where I know I’m welcomed. He genuinely cares about his students and what they say. You can also tell he loves what he does which makes his class so much more rewarding.”

   Throughout his years as a teacher, Mr. Benner has been a teacher advisor and sometimes the founding figure in a multitude of clubs. These clubs can range from academic extracurriculars like Model UN or Mock Trial, to service clubs like Habitat for Humanity and Project Give and Grow. Sometimes these clubs can be a fun get together for students to discuss interests, such as the recently founded Politics Club. Senior Jacob Rodriguez, the founder and president of Academic Decathlon had said “He believed in what I wanted to achieve and supported me through all of it,” when he was asked about Mr. Benner’s impact.

    Considering his many years here, Mr. Benner has amassed a considerable amount of memories that he thoroughly enjoyed. He spoke about the infamous El Modena Spirit Week, along with the general makeup of the student body. Along with these memories, he also spoke of the multiple trips he took with students throughout his time here. These endeavors ranged from Costa Rica, to Italy, and even China. 

    It is evident that throughout his two decades here, Mr. Benner has had a substantial impact on a multitude of students that filter in and out of this school throughout the course of the required four years. Over the span of his time here, he also has interacted with countless teachers and faculty at El Modena and I wanted to see what he believed it meant to be a teacher. He told me, “I think it’s the most rewarding experience I could have in terms of any profession. It’s a big part of my identity and it makes me a lifelong learner. I thoroughly enjoy 

watching students grow academically. I think it is one of the most important jobs you could have particularly in a high school setting. I think the impact is very important.”

   And since his retirement is creeping up, I wanted to see if he had believed that he had fulfilled his duty as a teacher. It was to this question that he replied with “ I don’t think that is for me to say and I don’t think I can answer that question,” but then expressed how he does have considerable reservations about retiring from his position.

    Earlier in the interview, Mr. Benner had rebutted one of my questions by speaking about the impact students had on him rather than the impact he had on students, but I wanted to ask the question once more to get a more in depth answer. He had elaborated by telling me about how his students had made him significantly more empathetic. “By watching students come in on a daily basis and seeing things that they deal with and challenges that they face, be it academic or at home.” And Mr. Benner contributes this rise in empathy to solely the El Modena student body.

   Wanting to end this interview on a lighter note, I had asked Mr. Benner to give a quote or message he lived by, still this was proven difficult. He then turned to one of the students residing in his classroom during lunch, Ashton Plettinck, and asked her for any quote she could think of. She had responded with “Do good for others, but well for yourself.”, and Benner was thoroughly pleased with that. The source has still yet to be uncovered.

    Since Mr. Benner is finishing off his last years as the History of Rock and Roll teacher, I wanted him to give a song he resonates with, along with a book he also resonates with. As for the song, he chose The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Pat Methany, and for the book he chose The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck.

   Mr. Benner has been such an influential and important person on the El Modena campus. He has done so much for this school, beyond more than what was just mentioned in this article. It is truly sad to see him go, but I can speak for many people when I say we are grateful for everything he has done. 


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