By VIRGINIA SHANK
Richard Burnett can "turn an ordinary art student into an exceptional one," explained his student Scott Heinemann.
Denise Mijavek "keeps life interesting," according to her pupil Matthew Troyer.
Jenna Mrofchak said as her teacher, Ann Viets made her feel "safe and comfortable."
These comments and others poured in to the Tribune Chronicle in recent weeks as area students, former students, parents and co-workers explained why their favorite teachers made the grade and made a difference in their students' lives.
Burnett, an art teacher at Howland, Mijavek, a teacher at Bristol Elementary School and Viets, a Currie Elementary School teacher, are among the area educators who share the honor of being selected as 2010 Tribune Chronicle A+ Teacher Award winners.
"These are just a few examples of what these students had to say about their teachers, how a teacher can impact the life of a student," said Sue Shafer, community events coordnator for the Tribune. "They are more than teachers. They are educators. They have shown how much they care and they've made an impact. Many times they've made life-changing and life-long impacts. That's what this recognition is about, recognizing those educators who have gone above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of their students."
The 20th annual A+ Teachers Award banquet will be held at the Outback Steakhouse in Niles on Tuesday. Sponsoring the event is the Trumbull County Educational Service Center, the Tribune Chronicle and Outback Steakhouse.
Winners were selected by a panel of business and educational leaders from among more than 1,000 letters submitted. Teachers in Trumbull County public, private and parochial classrooms were eligible to be nominated. Some teachers received multiple nominations.
Many testimonials about the teachers were submitted by students. Others were submitted by colleagues and family members.
For example, staff at Maplewood Elementary, including co-workers Theresa Craiger and Lynn Carlson, also a former student, explained of Paula Corp: "She is dedicated to helping students grow by teaching them to read ... She models courtesy and respect by listening to her students' concerns, asking about their family and outside interests."
Trent Vorce, who was in Wendy Gibson's second-grade class at Currie Elementary School in 2003, was killed in a house fire. His family found a note he had written about Gibson explaining "I love Mrs. Gibson. She is a nice teacher. I like it when she teaches me because it helps me learn good things and makes me smarter ...." Moved by the impact Gibson had on the boy's life, the family nominated her for the A+ Teacher Award.
Vickie Hill, whose son, Aidan, is in Luke Watts' second-grade class at Girard's Prospect Elementary School, wrote: "Mr. Watts encourages the children in class and pushes them to meet and exceed their goals in such creative and exciting ways, that the children honestly forget they are working in class, because they are having so much fun." She explained that Watts often dresses up as a wizard, which the children love, as part of an academic game.
Barbara Kondzich, who nominated Mary Bate from Warren's Lincoln K-8 School on behalf of her son, Shawn, credits Bate with her son's academic progress.
Joao Ciuba and his parents, Gary Ciuba and Patricia Rogan, commended deaf education teacher Cathy Anderson from Champion High School for surpassing "the performance of her required duties in supporting her deaf students."
Sonja Zink, a foreign exchange student from Germany, explained she always had a great time attending Katie Lariccia's English class at Newton Falls High School because of the teacher's "outstanding sense of humor and her ability to balance fun and work."
Kya Granger said her teacher Debra Csehill of Southington Elementary School: "She teaches us how to read a book ... she teaches me math ... I like her and I like to hug her."
Hannah Emerson said Andrea Gentile, a fourth-grade social studies teacher at Seaborn Elementary School, is the best teacher she's ever had. She writes: "She even gives her phone number to parents because she told my mom the teacher and the parents are a team."
Alexis Kelson said she likes Lynda Laurich, a teacher at Warren's Lincoln K-8 Building, because the teacher helps her read. Alexis, who has vision trouble, wrote that her teacher "is always looking for solutions to help" her.
Daniele Harris nominated her history teacher, Sam Caputo of Warren G. Harding High School, Warren, because he is "the greatest teacher" she knows and because he has a "vast knowledge about history, African-American history, history of rock and roll, world history and so much more."
Mariah Reibestein explained of Terry Armstrong, government teacher at Trumbull Career & Technical Center, "If you need help with anything he is willinging to help you out."
Alex Yuhas wrote of Niles Middle School teacher Sue Jackson that the teacher taught her students to work hard to get what they want and to never give up.
Briana Sinn said Randy Fee's math class at Lordstown High School changed her mind about math "completely."
Sarah Ancell said LaBrae High School biology teacher Craig Klotzbach has inspired her to dream.
Dillon Marx explained that Elaine Graban, of Hubbard's Reed Middle School, is "wonderful beyond belief ."
Gianna Pishotti wrote that Howland Middle School teacher Erina Schneider "has this way of showing care, concern, and disciplne in her teaching style." She said her teacher has "whipped" her "into shape."
Barbara Crowley said John F. Kennedy High School principal and teacher Brian Sinchak has changed the school and many of the students' lives.
Karlissa Thomas said Tom Gorse, a government teacher at Trumbull Career & Technical Center, taught her the difference between a teacher and an educator.