ALEDO, Illinois – It starts with a simple sentence:
"Mr. Chausse. I want to let you know that you're 'My Favorite Teacher'."
"He told me his door was always open and if I ever needed to talk about anything," wrote Rebecka in her letter nominating her teacher. "I bet he wishes he never told me that."
In rural school districts there are, at times, no more influential teacher than the one who teaches agriculture classes. And at Mercer County High School, that teacher is Michael Chausse.
Rebecka calls him her "secret-keeping therapist".
"I'll come to Chausse and he'll take it all in and try to help me the best. And that's not something he has to do."
But Mike Chausse might disagree.
For 30-years he's taught Ag classes at Aledo's high school. He says he was inspired by his Ag teacher and it's his turn to pay it forward.
"You want to teach the kids something," he told us, "but yeah, you know, you want to watch them go through life and be successful."
"There's a special bond between teachers and students that a lot of occupations don't have." -Mike Chausse
But it all starts with first impressions.
And Mr. Chausse leaves a towering first impression.
"The little kids were a little scared of him," Rebecka told us, "and I was like, 'No, he's super nice, I mean you just have to get past his appearance'!"
"I'm actually kinda a teddy bear," he admits.
"He's kinda soft and squishy on the inside," explains Rebecka. "You just have to get to know him."
And Ag students do.
Mike Chausse says agriculture teachers are like sports coaches: more involved with their students because of the shared experiences they have.
Especially in FFA where Rebecka is now an elected official and competing in public speaking contests.
"It's a door that he opened for me and I'm not going to shut it because it's something I really enjoy."
And for Mike Chausse, it's the whole reason he went into teaching.
"There's a special bond between teachers and students that a lot of occupations don't have."
Both Mr. Chausse and Rebecka get $50 Visa cards and gift baskets from Blackhawk Bank and Trust plus a blanket and back pack from Western Illinois University-Quad Cities. Both are sponsors of this year's "My Favorite Teacher" program.