MANLIUS, Ill. — English class is all about making connections. At Bureau Valley High School, fifth-year English teacher Daniel Trone is going above and beyond to connect with students, both in class and on stage.
As a student, Trone grew up in Walnut, Illinois, and attended BVHS. Then in college, Trone decided to take his skills across the ocean. It was while he was student teaching in Norway when he got a text about an open position at Bureau Valley.
"And I'm so happy to be here now," Trone smiled.
But while his days are spent diving into literature, discussing proper citations, and crafting persuasive papers, after-school hours are a bit more dramatic.
As the school's drama teacher, Trone leads his productions with both passion and kindness, often spending long nights in the auditorium, painting sets or hand-sewing costumes.
Through it all, his students say Trone goes out of his way to form connections.
"He's probably the most friendly teacher. Like, if you're having a bad day, he's the one that will pick you up," said MacKenzye Hodge.
A sophomore at BVHS, Hodge has had Trone both as a teacher and as a drama instructor.
She wrote to WQAD to nominate Trone for our "My Favorite Teacher" award. Here at News 8, we were moved by her words and her teacher's selflessness. Especially when Hodge described losing her grandmother a few years ago.
"I hated it. I felt depressed, I always wanted to cry," Hodge said. "I cried a ton in (Trone's) class, making connections to her in stories we read."
On one of those particularly rough days, Trone brought Hodge out to the hallway and asked if she liked trinkets. The next day, he handed her a tiny teacup to wear on a necklace chain.
"I go, 'Where'd you get this?' And he goes, 'Well, my mom,'" Hodge remembered. She said she insisted he keeps the teacup since he had lost his own mother a few years prior. "But he was like, 'If you take it, she'll be happy.'"
Ever since then, Hodge pulls out the teacup whenever she's feeling sad or missing her grandmother. It's a small reminder of her loved one, and of the people in her life that can help her through it.
When asked out the teacup, Trone just laughed.
"That's the kind of thing, as a teacher, you forget you do, right? Because you just try to do like, good stuff or make somebody's day, one day at a time," Trone said. "We say in theatre that we all want to be good performers and good set designers, but we want, more importantly, to be good people. And that's honestly the bigger challenge."
For that reason, we've chosen Daniel Trone to be one of our 2023 "My Favorite Teacher" winners.
As he grows in his career, Trone says he's realized collaborating with his students - making those connections - is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.
"It's nice to meet each student individually and work with their needs and interests. Really, they help me build my passions and I think they find a lot of their own too," Trone said. "I used to think that you wanted to have all the answers and you wanted (students) to follow you. But now I find that you come up with so many better, more creative solutions when you work together."
Watch previous "My Favorite Teacher" stories on News 8's YouTube channel
Each year, News 8 features five outstanding educators who have been nominated by students throughout eastern Iowa and western Illinois who want to recognize "My Favorite Teacher." WQAD News 8 is proud to partner with Blackhawk Bank & Trust, Bard Optical, Carpetland USA and SERVPRO for this year's contest.