He was the Teacher of the Year, she was the 17yo no one believed: This is Maggie Wilken's story.

American author Lisa Taddeo spent eight years immersing herself in the lives of three American women for her bestselling book Three Women.

But only one of the three subjects had her real name and identity revealed in the book and subsequent TV show. Her name is Maggie Wilken.

In 2009, 17-year-old high school student Maggie engaged in what she called a "sexual relationship" with her English teacher, though she has noted in her allegations that grooming and sexual preying was allegedly involved. 

Six years later, Maggie pressed charges against the teacher. Yet she faced condemnation from not only her alleged abuser but her community as well. 

Watch the trailer for Stan's Three Women. Post continues below. 

Video via Stan.

Maggie vividly remembers the first moment she saw teacher Aaron Knodel during their first English class together. 

Knodel soon began offering Maggie a shoulder to cry on. She would tell him about her turbulent childhood with two parents who were alcoholics.

"She'd linger after his class, or he would ask her a question when she was on her way out the door. 'Maggie', he'd say with incredibly earnest eyes, and she'd hung back. Eventually, she started to tell him bits. Sometimes there's nothing better on earth than someone asking you a question," wrote Taddeo. 


Knodel was a 29-year-old married father of two.

In Lisa Taddeo's book, Maggie's version of events is recounted.

As the alleged grooming continued after class, Maggie said one encounter then happened at Knodel's house when his kids were sleeping upstairs. Maggie said she and Knodel were in his basement watching a movie.

The duo kissed, and both said "I love you" to one another. Maggie alleged that Knodel didn't want them to have penetrative intercourse that night, claiming he said: "I want to wait until you're 18."

Maggie said Knodel told her she had "seduced" him, and then they proceeded to have oral sex. 

"He says something about knowing a lot about women's bodies and how to touch them. It's over, she guesses. He's lying there as though it is. She doesn't start crying, but she feels she'd like to. They consider the ceiling together. It feels awkward, not entirely magical. Still, she feels lucky to be there. But something about the orgasm made her feel very cold, like something was taken from her," Taddeo wrote

Previously speaking to Mamamia's No Filter, Taddeo said that Maggie's story was one she desperately wanted to tell.

"I think that Maggie's story being denied by almost everyone was just maddening. That was one of the reasons why I didn't want to change her name specifically because that was an important story specific to her."


Maggie now, having recently received her degree in social work. Image: Facebook.

Maggie alleges the grooming persisted, and the pair continued a "sexual relationship" for months.

Maggie said the situation ended when she "broke the rules" and texted him before he made initial contact on his 30th birthday, March 9, 2009, and his wife saw the text.


In 2014, Maggie – then in her early 20s – decided to come forward with her allegations. At the time she had started attending college to become a counsellor and realised she would be required to report cases of sexual misconduct – so she wanted to report her own allegations first.

That same year Knodel won the North Dakota Teacher of the Year. 

In August 2014 Knodel was charged with five felony counts of corruption or solicitation of a minor over alleged acts that took place at his residence and in the student's car. If convicted, Knodel faced up to 35 years in prison.

Knodel professed his innocence, saying he did not engage in anything sexual with Maggie, claiming he only tried to help her outside the classroom with personal issues. 

Knodel said he asked Maggie in March 2009 not to contact him anymore after he noticed a "subtle advance from her".

During the trial, Maggie testified. She alleged that she had given Knodel a copy of her Twilight book, and he returned it with more than 90 notes inside. 

She claimed Knodel sprayed his cologne onto the pages of her copy of Twilight, and carefully annotated it with handwritten notes comparing their alleged 'relationship' to Bella and Edward's 'forbidden love'. 

Prosecutors alleged the handwritten notes matched Knodel's handwriting. The prosecution tested the book and notes for DNA, but none was found.


Prosecutors also submitted cellphone call logs that showed nearly 100 calls between Wilken and Knodel. A criminal intelligence analyst testified that she found five calls between 60 and 120 minutes long and three calls that were more than 120 minutes long. She found 23 calls between the student and Knodel after 10pm and six calls after midnight, including one 240-minute call after midnight.

On the stand, Knodel strenuously denied all the allegations. 

Aaron Knodel on the stand during the trial. Image: KVLY-TV.


His wife also testified that she knew the student had called Knodel many times and saw the call logs from their family phone bill, saying it wasn't uncommon for her husband to help students outside of school hours. 

In June 2015, Knodel was acquitted of three of the five charges against him, and a Cass County District Court judge agreed to the state prosecutor's request to dismiss the remaining two charges.

A month following the verdict, the West Fargo School Board voted unanimously to reinstate Knodel, meaning he was paid back the nearly full year of salary that was suspended when he was charged.

"I stand here today urging you not to reinstate Aaron Knodel. I won't waste the board's time or my own time trying to convince you that there was a sexual relationship between him and myself. It's made my life extremely difficult and at times a struggle to move forward," she said, as per the Grand Forks Herald

Knodel continues to teach.

In 2019, a petition was made with the aim to revoke Aaron Knodel's right to teach. 

In the aftermath of the verdict, Taddeo said Maggie felt ostracised from those in her community and town.

"The thing that was probably the most shocking for me was that after the trial she had this protest where just her and her brother held up signs. That same day there was a counter protest and it was full of girls around the same age from the same school," Taddeo explained to No Filter


"The most shocking thing was that he, his wife and their two children strapped in the backseat drove through the protest hooting and hollering. One of the kids or the wife were raising their fists in the air in victory."


Today, Maggie now works in the mental health space as a social worker, and she's in her mid-30s.

Maggie recently said she is grateful for how Taddeo dealt with her story in Three Women.

"I had been let down, deceived and betrayed by so many people already. Why would she be any different? But she was. She is," Maggie shared on Instagram.

"Lisa shows up for me time and time again on so many levels. She also deserves so much credit for lifting me up for others to hear my voice when I had been repeatedly silenced by my own community."

During filming for Stan's Three Women, Maggie met the actress who plays her in the show, Gabrielle Creevy.

Taddeo wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of the pair: "Maggie Wilken, aka the bravest woman I ever met, met Gabi Creevey, one of the finest humans in the world and the woman giving Maggie's story to the world in what I know will be the most indelible way yet. I love these two with my whole heart."


Reflecting on sharing Maggie's story, Taddeo said: "I have worried every day that I wouldn't do Maggie's story the justice it deserves and I will never stop worrying about that or trying harder.

"Stories like hers are shelved, pillowed and muffled. It is one of the great honours of my life that this miracle of a human has placed her trust in me. I love you with my whole heart dear Maggie. You are forever."

Three Women is now available to watch on Stan.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Feature Image: Stan.

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