A+ Teachers rise to the challenges

A+ Teachers connect with students beyond test scores

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple A+ Teacher Jodi Walker at Hubbard Middle School, far right, goes over a math problem with her class using a stool and a cup.

Teachers teach. A+ Teachers make students want to learn.

That’s why Hubbard High School student Brooke Myers nominated her middle school math teacher for a 2019 A+ Teacher award.

“Mrs. Walker turned me from this girl who didn’t understand math — and didn’t want to — to this girl who walks into a math class like it’s a deep breath,” Myers said. “Her goofy methods to remember things and her methods of teaching stick with me to this day, and it’s been two years.”

Likewise, Morgan Tenney of Champion High School said through government teacher John Haug’s “interactive teaching style, I had become more knowledgeable about government than I ever thought possible. He had opened my mind to learn and explore topics I never had any interest in before.”

Tenney said because of Haug’s influence and a long discussion about career choices, she plans to obtain a medical law degree.

“His class made me learn to overcome struggles and have an open mind about different topics,” she said. “Mr. Haug and his guidance have prepared me more than anybody else for college, and because of him, my life is taking a completely different path than I ever could have imagined.”

Walker and Hague are two of this year’s 20-member class of A+ Teachers.

A total 1,090 nominating letters were received for the awards, which are sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle, Trumbull County Retired Teachers Association, Trumbull County Educational Service Center and Outback Steakhouse, with support from Covelli Enterprises. The 20 winners will receive dinner at Outback Steakhouse and a personalized award.

“Each year we are surprised to find a common element among all the letters,” Trumbull Retired Teachers Association President Sue Datish said. “This year, many students wrote about teachers that made the connection for them. The connection was in their learning, but more important, in their relationship with their teachers.

“Our winners proved to be very caring individuals as well as inspirational to their students,” Datish said.

Teachers who win the award twice are enshrined in the A+ Hall of Fame and are no longer are eligible for further wins. This year’s class features two Hall-of-Famers, both from Newton Falls High School: Melissa LeMay, who first won the award in 2013; and Rachael Rankin, who won in 2014.

Newton Falls High School student Olivia Valot recalled how Algebra I became a refuge when LeMay taught her eighth-grade math class.

“Last year was the hardest year of my life due to some family issues,” Valot wrote in her nomination. “Every day, I dreaded coming to school, but there was one thing I looked forward to — Ms. LeMay’s fourth-period math class.

“Every time I walked into her room, she always had a smile on her face. She was always so energetic and happy to see all of us. By the time I left her classroom, my mood had changed.”

Trumbull Career and Technical Center senior Tia Sorrels writes of “Mama Engineer” Terri Fleming, “She helps all of her kids grow, even the stray kids from other programs, and she constantly reminds us of how far we’ve come and pushes further.

“It’s absolutely amazing how she can keep our attention on even the most boring of subjects and make them seem cool. If a student thinks they won’t understand engineering, she proves them wrong in the first week.

“Kids come to her class for engineering and end up graduating with lessons in both engineering and life.”

Wendy Wagner, the parent of two girls whom she first fostered then adopted, offered thanks to fourth-grade teacher Janell “Mrs. Rich” Richardson at Lincoln PK-8 School for “taking time away from her family to research and advocate on behalf of her students.

“The love, patience and time she’s committed to just our girls shows her dedication every year,” Wagner said. “Mrs. Rich has been my support system on behalf of Alaina and Daina’s education to succeed.”

School psychologist Katy Shroder, Ph.D., nominated JFK Lower Campus reading tutor Kristen Beatty for persevering in hard and largely unnoticed circumstances.

“Kristen has been a teacher for 23 years, and the last 12 have been at JFK. Many parents say, ‘Who?'” Shroder said.

“That’s due to the fact that Kristen only works with struggling learners. … She teaches only reading. Each day, students come to her to work on the skills that are hard for them — the ones that make them struggle and often fail, the ones that are responsible for tears in the classroom.

“The students love Kristen and the methods she uses to help them, not only with reading skills but also focused attention.

“In her interactions with students, parents and colleagues, she is always optimistic, never giving up on a student. We need more of that in education.”

Hubbard High School student Madison McGowan called Mary Davis a wonderful teacher who always pushes her students to be the greatest they can be.

“She teaches things so in-depth so everyone can understand. She never leaves any students in the dark,” McGowan said.

“She has taught me so much about life. She showed me that sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. She’s showed me what genuine kindness and love is. Last, but not least, she’s showed me how great of an impact you can leave on somebody by just being kind.”

Davis, a nine-year teaching veteran, saluted her own high school teachers.

“I went into education because of some stellar teachers I had that made an impact on my life,” Davis said. “I have always said that if I can affect even one student a fraction of the impact my teachers had on me, then it will be all worth it.

“I also think it is really important for teachers to convey to their students that we care about their success and well-being in and out of our classroom. Sometimes kids just need someone in their corner; even if your subject matter isn’t their best subject, they should know you still care,” Davis said.


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