The Pepperbox

The Student News Site of Arcata High School

The Pepperbox

The Pepperbox

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Taylors Grandparents before a night of dancing.
Advance from Grandma: Loving Through Change
Taylor Sutherland, Business Manager • April 2, 2024

“It’s a day for sweethearts, and showing love to one another,” my Grandma said as we started talking about Valentine's Day. My grandma,...

She’s an icon, she’s a legend, and she is the moment: A deep dive into the life of Ms. Witten

English and Journalism teacher Danielle Witten has been inspiring and touching the hearts of staff and students alike since she first started her career in 2004. Witten has been a strong Pepperbox leader, helping her students understand different perspectives and make changes within the school. But how did Witten get to be where she is today? What inspires her? Who is Witten really?

Witten’s predecessor, Joan Williams, had just retired and there were only five students in the class when she began her career. Witten didn’t want the school newspaper to die, so she decided she had to help.

“At that point, it was unclear if the school newspaper would keep going,” Witten said. “I wanted the students to still have a voice on our campus, and that’s when I took over.”

When Witten first began teaching, the Pepperbox didn’t have a website, any social media, or a news broadcast like it does today. It was difficult, but Witten was inspired to help lead the school paper because she believed that it was important for students to be able to express themselves on campus. The Pepperbox provided a chance for change and different points of view.

“I feel like [Journalism] should be a graduation requirement because you really learn about democracy and truth,” Witten said.

Witten compared her experience working at Arcata High as a teacher to her own high school experience.

“I was definitely the quiet student in the back of the class who never talked when I was in high school. And now I’m the loud person in the front of the class, so that’s really different!” Witten said.

Witten explained that along with being an introvert, she also considers herself to be a nerd. She said that many nerds are curious, empathetic, and great listeners because they’re often quiet and introverted like she is.

“Nerds rule the world. And when you go out into the real world, some of your nerdy powers are going to be very, very valuable,” Witten said.

Witten believes that all of her “nerdy” students have a lot of character and potential and deserve to enjoy their high school experience.

“So I guess my advice is hang in there. And read books and find the friends that really appreciate you for who you are,” Witten said.

Witten’s favorite part of her job is her students, and she loves all her students equally. She sees choosing between the two classes she teaches at Arcata High, AP English Language and Composition and Journalism, as “choosing between your two children.” Although Witten’s daily life is filled with “non-stop action,” she enjoys teaching and encouraging her students to learn and make changes in their world.

“I love hanging out with teenagers. I think you are inspiring truth-tellers. I think you’re funny. I think you give me hope that the world is going to be a better place. Every year, I get to see students just grow into incredible leaders. And there’s no better job than to watch students grow,” Witten said.

Witten has expressed her plans for the Pepperbox and how important it is that her students have a strong voice on campus.

“I would love it if whoever would take over the Pepperbox in the future could maintain a bubble of students’ right to free speech. I don’t tell the students what to write about. I don’t tell them how to approach their angle. I leave it up to the students and that has been really, really important. It stays the students’ paper,” Witten said.

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About the Contributor
Scarlett Burns
Scarlett Burns, Copy Editor
Scarlett Burns is a freshman, journalist, and aspiring author. She writes a lot in her free time and enjoys coming up with new plots and characters to use in her stories. She believes in the importance of telling stories and wants to inspire others with her work. Scarlett plans on using her new role as a journalist to address and bring light to changes and issues at Arcata High. Although Scarlett’s previous work has been mostly fiction, she is open to the challenge of writing about different topics.
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