ANKENY, Iowa – An Ankeny teacher goes out of his way to make sure students feel special, whether they’re in his classroom or not.

The passing period sounds a little different in this high school hallway, thanks to a teacher who provides a pop of music, color, and individuality.

Steve VanGundy teaches computer science at Ankeny High School. It’s his willingness to show up for students outside of the classroom that makes a difference for Jackson Grossnickle, who doesn’t even have him in class.

“So every prep period he comes in fifth hour, he always comes down and [is] with the kids with disabilities and I think that’s so awesome,” Grossnickle, who’s a junior at Ankeny High, said. “He doesn’t have to do it, but he does it anyways and I think that’s super cool. He comes to any event that we’re at which I think that’s awesome.”

It’s why Jackson nominated Mr. VanGundy for a Golden Apple Award.

Mr. VanGundy was at a loss for words.

“It’s a great honor.” VanGundy said. “Thank you… um I don’t know what else to say.”

But his colleagues know how big of a difference he makes.

“Whether he realizes it or not, he epitomizes how much of an influence and impact teachers have on young people,” Principal Daniel “DJ” Johnson said, “just with his interactions making them feel seen, heard, and valued. And he does that with many kids inside his classroom and outside his classroom. Students notice those things.”

A lesson in kindness that Mr. VanGundy teaches everyday.

“Well hopefully they get the sense that with all us teachers that there’s people who care about them,” VanGundy said, “not just for academics or that kind of stuff, but as people.”

Mr. VanGundy is also a graduate of Ankeny High School.