Former teacher of fallen Knoxville soldier says he nearly predicted his future in high school essay

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After the death of her former student, Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, Angela Hoffman is reflecting on the semester she taught him at Gibbs High School when he was just 14 years old.

Knauss was was one of 13 American service members killed in an attack outside Kabul’s airport on August 26.

Hoffman taught Knauss for one semester in 2012. It was her first semester as a teacher and his first high school semester. One of the first assignments Ryan completed in Hoffman’s class would end up leaving a lasting memory with the teacher.

“He had a very quiet but confident demeanor,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said one of the first assignments she gave to the class is what told her all she needed to know about Ryan’s character. Students were asked to write an essay about who they were.

From Ryan’s essay, Hoffman says she learned that he liked to read, was born and raised in Corryton, TN, and had dreams of joining the military. But Ryan also – unknowingly – gave his teacher a glimpse into his future.

“In his essay, he wrote nine years ago almost to this date that for him a role model is anyone who stands up against power to help others,” Hoffman said.

When she saw the news of Ryan’s death on Friday, Hoffman says she recognized the name from nine years ago. She immediately started digging through her classroom mementos from over the years and found a handwritten note of hers about Ryan’s essay.

“He wrote that nine years ago as a 14-year-old boy, not knowing the man he was going to become. And that was just so powerful to find this in my handwritten notes from nine years ago that he shared that as a 14-year-old as being something that he wanted his teachers to know about him,” Hoffman said.

Young Ryan knew his destiny before he even lived it. What he and his teacher didn’t know was that nine years later he would tragically die being his own definition of a role model.

Ryan was one of 13 other servicemen killed in the attacks at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan on August 26. He was 23 years old and leaves behind a wife.

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