Chaparral senior earns Flinn Scholarship, credits past teacher

Flinn Scholarship recipeient and Chaparral senior Kyle Polen with his second grade teacher Janet Lottman. (Submitted photo)

It’s not every day that a call comes in and you’re offered a full-ride, scholarship to the Arizona university honors college of your choice while you’re brushing your teeth in Switzerland.

That is exactly how Chaparral High School senior Kyle Polen found out last month he is a 2019 Flinn Scholar, according to a press release.

Mr. Polen, 18, was taking part in a spring break Scottsdale Sister Cities student exchange trip to Interlaken, Switzerland, when his cell phone rang one night.

“My host family was asleep,” Mr. Polen said in a prepared statement. “so I had to keep it kind of quiet, but it was great news.”

Mr. Polen and 19 other seniors, hailing from Tucson to Prescott, comprise this year’s Flinn Scholars class.

The four-year, merit-based awards are valued at more than $120,000 each and cover tuition, fees, room and board at an Arizona public university, as well as two, summer study-abroad experiences.

He will attend Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, in August, and be a part of the pre-med program, a release states.

Mr. Polen says he and other would-be Flinn applicants were told during an information session last year no one ever expects to be named a Flinn Scholar.

“I can definitely attest to that,” he said. “It was a total surprise, but I’m thankful, and it’s just excellent.”

Mr. Polen is an SUSD product, from kindergarten through fifth grade at Sequoya Elementary School, sixth through eighth grades at Cocopah Middle School and ninth through 12th grade at Chaparral.

He credits Janet Lottman, his now-retired second grade teacher at Sequoya, with setting him up for success and recognizing how to motivate an admitted seven-year-old rascal.

“I can’t really narrow it down to one thing,” he said. “For one, I think, academic rigor was something I adopted as part of her class with basic things, like spelling tests and times tables. In addition to that, the extracurricular activities — theater and public speaking — for me, were invaluable.”

Ms. Lottman made such an impression on Mr. Polen back then that he has named her as the educator who, to this point, has had the most influence on him.

She will join Mr. Polen’s parents and him at a Flinn Scholars celebration luncheon May 4 at Paradise Valley Country Club.

For her part, Ms. Lottman said she is delighted to have had an impact on her student 10 years ago.

“I am so proud and so honored to know that in second grade, this guy, with a twinkle in his eye, and a little mischievous,” she said. “I might say, that he has achieved so much. This award is the tops. I am just delighted.”

Mr. Polen is the third Flinn Scholar to have been a student of Ms. Lottman’s.

“I’ve had nothing but great experiences from all the teachers and faculty who have helped me get here,” Mr. Polen told the SUSD Governing Board last week.

“so for that, I would just like to say thank you. I’m looking forward to the next step, representing SUSD at Barrett in the fall as a Flinn Scholar.”

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