YORK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — It’s not always easy to reach teenagers, especially in the classroom.

One high school English teacher in the Hampton Roads region has made it her mission to do just that, which is why her colleagues believe she’s an excellent educator.

In a lesson about ethos, pathos and logos, Shana Gist is using connection. At an age when it can be tough to relate, that’s exactly what she does.

“By the time students get to me their junior year, they’re over reading, they don’t like to read and writing is very intimidating,” said Gist. “So what I try to do, knowing this is an SOL course and they have to pass the SOL in order to graduate, I incorporate it into their everyday lives, showing how things are relevant.”

Gist has been teaching for 22 years; she’s been at Bruton High School for seven.

She teaches English 11 and AP Language and Composition. Her motivation is her students.

“Everything is always for the kids, even on the roughest days, I think of them,” said Gist.

Those students tell 10 On Your Side they appreciate what she brings to the classroom.

“I really hate writing, I’ve never been good at it, but actually she’s helped me write a lot,” said junior Isaiah Anderson. “I’ve done my best work this year than ever before.”

Senior Madelina Yates said, “She’s super supportive, she always, she’ll always be honest with you. I think honesty is super important, even if it’s not what you want to hear.”

Gist works with her students, creating individualized plans for them as they take on the SOLs.

“If you can break down the walls that are keeping students from realizing their potential or even considering approaching something, then it can change the entire mentality,” said Gist.

Gist says she also gives her students the freedom to choose some of the books they read, saying how much it changes the game when they’re excited about the book in front of them.