MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Junior high can be a tough time for a kid. Many young teens struggle with challenges at school, at home, and among friends.

Some students in Burnsville are lucky enough, though, to have a teacher who everyday gives them little life lessons to help them through the rough times.

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With their desks in a half circle, students in Steven Orth’s ninth-grade classroom are fully engaged. Tucked in the middle is their teacher.

Orth loves teaches language arts at Metcalf Junior High, but it took one of his own teachers to help him realize his passion.

“I was talking to one of my high school mentor English teachers he pulled me aside in Burnsville Senior High and said, ‘So Orth, what are you going to do in college?’ ‘I’m going to be a teacher, a math teacher.’ He said, ‘Nope, you’re double majoring — math and English.'”

Yes, Orth was a student in the same district for which he now teaches. His classroom used to be, well, his classroom.

“It’s amazing that I get to do what I do,” he said. “To be taking over for my English teacher is an honor.”

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Orth’s other passion is drama. He’s the director of the school’s theater program. According to some of his students, he sometimes brings the theatrics into the classroom as well. But it’s the drama that happens outside the classroom where Orth makes the biggest impact.

“If you’re going through bad stages in life it will help you,” student Blake Bixby said.

“I don’t know how he does it be he hits everybody through the class in particular but talks to the class at the same time,” student Isabel Tifre said.

He has a knack for taking a schoolbook assignment and turning it into a lesson the students can use in their daily lives.

“One thing we talked about even last year while reading ‘The Hobbit’ and we were learning about heroes is that they are the heroes of their own life story. They are not just the main characters, but they are the heroes, and they have a quest to go on they have a boone to bring back, they have a villain to vanquish, and they have a story to be sung for generations after,” Orth said.

Not only does Orth direct in the drama department, but he also writes his own plays that his theater students perform.

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