30 years of dedication to Sunset High School


From adopting new curricula to administration changes, Sunset High School continues to evolve, but two teachers –  Valarie Nichols and Stephanie Blankenship – are a constant source of support to students, and have been, for more than three decades.

As English teachers, they are committed to encouraging students to overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential.  

“Adapting to changes has been challenging, especially with the increasing emphasis on standardized tests,” Nichols said.

As Nichols reflects on becoming campus “Teacher of the Year” and being recognized in “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers,” she says her proudest accomplishments extend beyond accolades.

Blankenship finds great fulfillment in the strong relationships she built with both students and colleagues.

Their paths to teaching are as diverse as their experiences in the classroom.

Blankenship was inspired to become a teacher while still in high school.

“All four of my English teachers played a big role in my decision to major in English and pursue teaching,” she said.

For Nichols, a serendipitous journey led her from aspirations of becoming a psychiatrist to discovering her true calling in the classroom. “It was a whole roundabout way,” Nichols said, recounting her transition from Radio-Television-Film with a minor in psychology, to substitute teaching, to a fulfilling career in education.

Their dedication to their students goes beyond just imparting knowledge.

Nichols emphasized the importance of being true to oneself.
“I’ve learned to embrace the oddness and stay true to who I am, which allows me to be there for my students in ways others might not,” she said.

Blankenship shared a quote from Maya Angelou: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

She says the quote highlights the profound impact teachers can have on students’ lives.

During Teacher Appreciation Week—which recognizes and celebrates the influence educators have on shaping the future—Nichols and Blakenship celebrate their 30 years at Sunset, continuing to impart invaluable lessons, both inside and outside the classroom.
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