The Harry T. Wilks Educator of Excellence Award
Congratulations to all 2020 Educator of Excellence Nominees!
Harry T. Wilks created a legacy of honoring education, and we are proud to recognize deserving educators once again. Mr. Wilks passed away in March 2014, but his tremendous generosity toward the community he loved truly lives on.
Educators of Excellence are chosen by their school in recognition as an outstanding educator. Schools were encouraged to consider these qualities when choosing their Educator of Excellence:
● The daily impact that he/she has on students within our community
● Ways has he/she shows innovation within their position
● Examples of going above and beyond the call of duty
● Ways has he/she contributes as a leader within the school and community
Nominees from each school receives a $1,000 grant as well as a custom art piece designed by InsideOut Studios. Thank you to all educators for all you do for the youth in our community!
Read more about each of our nominees below.
Ms. Nikki Bowling has been a teacher at Riverview Elementary School since the building opened. Currently she is teaching sixth grade language arts and social studies at Riverview, but Nikki teaches much more than that. Students who have the privilege of calling Ms. Bowling their teacher will learn lifelong skills that can only be learned through experiences and hard work.
Meaningful discussion is a point of focus in Nikki’s classroom. In a world of technology and social media, where face-to-face interaction is limited, Ms. Bowling gives students the opportunity to speak in front of their peers, work in groups, and defend their opinions through productive debate. Skills, such as the aforementioned, will be used well beyond the walls of any school. Students will use the communication strategies they learn in Ms. Bowling’s classroom in their future careers, to help strengthen their personal relationships, and in many other facets of life. Nikki models the importance of communication and relationship-building for her students on a daily basis. She has strong relationships with her colleagues and builds a strong rapport with each and every one of her students. Ms. Bowling also has taken on leadership responsibilities at Riverview by representing her grade level in the building leadership team and also being the sole representative for the school on the district leadership team.
Her work goes far beyond room 226 at Riverview--Ms. Bowling leaves a positive impression on all those who she comes in contact with. Good instruction can be learned, but you can’t teach personality. Ms. Bowling has the humor, compassion, and great personality needed to connect with the students at Riverview and make a lasting impact. For all these reasons and more, Ms. Bowling is Riverview Elementary School’s 2020 Educator of Excellence Nominee.
Ty Captain - Third Grade Teacher
Fairwood Elementary School
Ty embodies the meaning of community and is intentional in building community. You can find him in regular attendance at all Fairwood after school events, working as a teacher for summer school and a coach for ESL camp. He works to provide our students with activities that go beyond the classroom through his help in the creation of Fairwood’s first ever STEAM lab and his role as leader of the Lego Club. Ty is eager to bring ideas back to his colleagues that are worthwhile and beneficial to all. He has worked with staff to train teachers on the elements of Responsive Classroom and continues to foster a relationship with Miami University through his development of student teachers and field students. Ty also serves as one of Fairwood’s TLC’s and brings extensive knowledge to the staff in all things tech through training and the sharing of resources.
Ty builds lasting relationships with students, their families and colleagues. He is a versatile educator and has worked in a variety of grade bands in order to maintain relationships with his students and families through looping. Ty builds an amazing rapport with his students and families. He also is known to provide a good laugh when a co-worker needs it. Ty’s happy voice and energy proceed him in every direction.
Ty’s greatest strengths are his personality, mindset and approachable demeanor. You can be knowledgeable and good at many things, but if people do not want to work with you it is hard to increase your sphere of influence and make positive change. This is not the case for Ty. He exudes a positive energy that attracts people to him. His positive energy is contagious. When faced with a change or hardship he sees it as a challenge and he runs with it. Personality and mindset is not something that can be taught and we are very lucky to have Ty at Fairwood! To know him is to love him!
Dr. Katherine Christen - ELA Teacher
Hamilton High School - Freshman Campus
Dr. Katherine Christen is a thirty-four year veteran teacher of the Hamilton City School District. She is also a professor at the University of Cincinnati where she works with aspiring new teachers to help them navigate their first educational courses. She is an amazing mother to three children who are also in the Hamilton City School District. She is a valued member of the Hamilton community. Above all else, she is also a wonderful friend!
One reason Dr. Christen is a phenomenal educator is her compassion and understanding of her students each and every day. She always has a smile on her face and warm greetings for her students. She is attentive to their needs. She goes above and beyond to help students out. She sends personal cards home weekly to her students. Students always come in beaming from ear to ear the next day after receiving one of her hand written cards. She also helps students in many other ways, including everything from a McDonald’s gift card for a student whose family is going through tough times to delivering donated furnishings and household items to a family. Her desire to help students learn is only exceeded by her desire to help students be their best self.
Kathy’s generous nature doesn’t stop at students. She is the same way with her fellow teachers and teammates. She leaves scratch off tickets for the custodians, she gives of her time to help new teachers, and she is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to planning curriculum. She works as a building rep and serves on the board of directors for the union.
In addition, one of Dr. Christen's best attributes is her ability to bridge the classroom to the community and find grants and funding to provide educational experiences, such as the Romeo and Juliet play, to our students that may not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience the theatre arts, due to the cost and proximity to these ventures. She always has a "connection" and uses these to build a school community that focuses not only in the classroom, but beyond to our city and community members. For all these reasons and more, Dr. Christen is the Freshman school’s 2020 Educator of Excellence nominee.
Sarah Daniels - Art Teacher
Stephen T. Badin High School
Sarah Daniels had no plans to be a teacher. But, as she puts it, teaching found her.
Daniels, now in her 10th year teaching Art at Badin High School, has been named the school’s Educator of Excellence Nominee in the 18th annual Harry T. Wilks “Hamilton Celebrates Education” program, sponsored by the Hamilton Community Foundation.
“I didn’t even want to be a teacher,” said Daniels, a graduate of Monroe High School and the Design, Art and Architecture program at the University of Cincinnati. “Maybe a stand-up comic,” she says with her typical dry wit, “or an art director at an ad agency.”
“Teaching chased me for a long time and didn’t give up,” added Daniels, who previously taught for eight years at St. Julie Billiart School in Hamilton and was, in fact, the nominee from that now-closed Catholic elementary school the very first year the Harry T. Wilks “Hamilton Celebrates Education” awards were presented.
“Sarah Daniels brings so much creativity to Badin High School,” Badin Principal Brian Pendergest remarked. “She’s a tremendously talented person who brings out the best in her students.”
“Badin has offered me the opportunity to help our students see the real difference they can make in our community and beyond,” Daniels said. “They embrace a challenge, and are open to the possibilities in all that they do.”
Among the projects that Daniels’ students have tackled over the years are painting rain barrels to raise money for Save Local Waters. They created more than 120 pairs of custom painted athletic shoes for the underprivileged, a project that earned major support from the Fairfield Community Foundation. They have created more than 100 art kits for children in the community who did not have access to art supplies. Their ongoing efforts with the InsideOut Studio have led to Daniels accepting a spot on that organization’s oversight board, the Inspiration Studio board.
“I definitely try to be energetic and enthusiastic,” said Daniels, a Hamilton resident who is married with adult twin daughters. “If a teacher is not enthusiastic and happy, how can they ever expect their students to be?”
Daniels teaches the Art I-IV courses at Badin, including an Advanced Placement class for seniors, but has added her own touch with one-semester classes like Fashion Illustration and Art Exploration.
Her dynamic efforts have had the work of Badin High art students displayed in galleries all over Greater Cincinnati. One such student, Regan Runtz ’20, earned the top prize, the prestigious “Best of Show” award, at the annual “Tomorrow’s Artists Today” competition at the Middletown Arts Center in February.
“Art is the highest form of self-expression,” Daniels said. “Art speaks. It engages every viewer differently. It is about making people pause and think. And sometimes it makes their heart beat fast and takes them away.”
“I have a list of 40 bits of advice I give my students,” Daniels said. “One is to listen to that little voice in your head. Another is, ‘Don’t ever wonder, what if?’ And most of all, share your talent. It is why God gives talent, after all.”
“I have the unique opportunity to be able to engage daily with students one-on-one,” she said. “I try to remember that for one student, my class might be the best part of their day. How could I ever let them down?”
“Don’t ever say you don’t have enough time,” she said. “You have the same hours in the day as Einstein, Michelangelo and Bill Gates. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Sometimes, you only get one chance. Make it count.”
A number of Daniels’ students have gone on to art careers – as art teachers, but also as architects, art therapists, fashion designers, filmmakers, graphic designers, illustrators and more.
“When they email me about what they are doing post college, I couldn’t be more proud,” Daniels said. “I am so blessed to have played a small part in their journey.”
Carolyn Fuchs - Intervention Specialist
Wilson Middle School
Carolyn has been a member of the Wilson family for 15 years serving our students as an Intervention Specialist and co-teacher to core academics. Carolyn’s duties as an intervention specialist take her far beyond the realm of simply providing learning opportunities. Carolyn is practical and analytic through the process of learning about her students to not only make strong connections but to provide the most meaningful learning experiences. Secondly, the interactions and relationships that she extends to the students’ families is engaging and welcoming to the overall experience of education. Families feel a part of their child’s learning and development that Mrs. Fuchs fosters and grows throughout the time that the students attend Wilson Middle School. The experience and personality that Carolyn brings to Wilson inspires the students, staff, and building culture in a way that signifies the foundations of Wilson Middle School by being accountable to self and our community; Driven to succeed; and Compassionate to all people.
There are many words that can be used to describe Carolyn. One of Carolyn’s colleagues uses the word, “determined” when describing her. Carolyn genuinely loves her students and wants them to succeed. She challenges them to be the best that they can be and will stop at nothing for them to be successful. Carolyn’s determination helps to support those around her to overcome obstacles and challenges in life while doing it with a smile. Her optimism and smile are contagious. Her humorous personality is engaging to both students and coworkers.
Carolyn's passion, enthusiasm, and dedication to the teaching profession is what all young teachers should aspire to achieve. Carolyn’s passion to ensure that all students have equal opportunity to show success in school and in life is transfixed into the classrooms that she attends. She is a great collaborator with her colleagues in a manner that helps to educate and inform new innovative ideas of differentiation and relationship building, and best teaching practices.
As good of a teacher as Carolyn is, she is an even better person. Carolyn is the kindest and most compassionate person when it comes to her students and colleagues. Whether it's singing, dancing, or just making the kids laugh, she makes a genuine effort to connect with her students and inspire a love for learning. Carolyn is part of what makes Wilson Middle School such a great place for students and her colleagues. Wilson Middle School is proud to have Mrs. Carolyn Fuchs as our representative for this year’s Harry T. Wilks Educator of Excellence Award.
Emily Fuerbacher - Pre-Kindergarten Teacher
Ridgeway Elementary School
Emily Fuerbacher’s consistent positive energy and outlook is contagious to all those around her! She wholeheartedly loves her students and gives 110% when she is with them. She is so very compassionate about her students and instruction…..and it shows everyday. True teacher passion is not only having a love for children, but it absolutely includes the desire to work with children to make a difference, THIS is Emily! Students are always the number one priority with Emily, with both academic and social/emotional needs being met. Emily always goes above and beyond, working to track down all the possible services that her students would benefit from most, and follows up to make sure that they are getting the best of everything.
Emily is vivacious, loving, perpetually happy and can use humor to balance out the stress of working with her particular population. No matter what, Emily has a smile on her face and her positive attitude is infectious to students and staff.
Emily is such an amazing teacher that positively affects the lives of our youngest students and creates a fantastic foundation for learning in our community and sets the tone for each child’s lifelong learning journey.
Her innovative preschool classroom is such a fun and amazing environment that is inclusive to all children's needs. She is always coming up with new, fun and hands on ways to engage young learners. Emily has taken to teaching half virtual/half classroom for this very different school year. She has approached this with enthusiasm and excitement, jumping right in to creating Bitmoji classrooms and virtual activities.
Young children are full of energy and curiosity. Miss Fuerbacher brings a great deal of patience and a dose of humor to the classroom to keep children engaged in the day’s lessons and the business of multiple activities happening in order to keep students engaged.
A change in mindset, mood, and overall classroom vibe begins with the teacher. The teacher sets the tone of the class from the minute students walk into the building. If educators are excited about their subject matter, students will tend to follow. However, a teacher's mindset regarding how to design and deliver content is critical to the innovative learning process. This is where Emily comes in…...the innovative strategies she uses to reach the minds of every pre-school student are beyond amazing and prove time and time again to be effective.
Emily is more than an amazing teacher she is a great mentor and friend to everyone in our building. She is always willing to help and share ideas. Emily is a leader when it comes to working with ALL students. Children come from different home environments and backgrounds, which can lead to different learning styles. Early childhood teachers should be able to accept these differences and be willing to work with varied learning styles to ensure all students leave the classroom having achieved the identified learning objectives. Emily exceeds these qualities as she is prepared for a multicultural classroom with many ethnicities, cultures and traditions represented. Her classroom is one where differences are not merely tolerated but are welcomed, celebrated, and embraced, creating an open and exciting learning atmosphere! She sets the tone of heartfelt acceptance for her team.
Emily is the first to volunteer for extra activities such as volunteering at our Fall Festival or supporting our community at various events. She HAPPILY has her hand in numerous school and community activities that are well beyond her contract, yet she truly ENJOYS making a difference in many lives…..in many ways.
Emily stands out as a leader on her team. She is always happy to answer preschool related questions and problem solve to help families. She has a positive attitude and is always happy to help all constituents. She is looked at as the most veteran and knowledgeable Pre-K teacher on the staff and teachers flock to her for advice and instructional ideas.
Teachers can help improve society and or community by contributing their knowledge and area of expertise to the world. They play such an essential role teaching different subjects and being a role model, inspiration and coach to others that they can continue to do that outside the classroom. This is Emily Fuerbacher’s personal philosophy!
Essentially, her role isn’t limited to the classroom. Her role and service transcends the classroom where she shares her philosophy and approach to leading in the classroom. By modeling this, others can hone and sharpen their own teaching skills and show others how they can be effective teachers in their own spaces. Emily provides the power of education to today’s youth when they FIRST experience the educational setting, thereby giving them the possibility for a better future. She simplifies the complex and makes abstract concepts accessible to all students. She exposes children to ideas and topics that they might otherwise not have experienced. The entire staff at Ridgeway Elementary is honored to nominate her for this prestigious award!
Matt Gauck - 6th Grade Math/Science Teacher
Bridgeport Elementary School
Mr. Gauck has unmatched integrity and strength. He has a keen ability to assess a situation and react in an appropriate and effective way. He is adamant that his goal is not only to teach students but to help students become better people through his instruction and support.
The impact Mr. Gauck has on students is evident daily. Former students frequently stop by to say good morning to “Mr. G.” on their way to their classes. Students remember their time with him and can articulate memories of favorite lessons, most frequently Egg Drop. Matt creates opportunities for students to persevere and work together, two skills that are both critical and timeless. As a teacher who is data driven and goal oriented, he creates small group instructional systems, intervention, and enrichment instruction that is aligned with individual student data to increase student achievement and meet the individual needs of all students. He co-teaches in an inclusion classroom for the first half of the day and can guide all students through data to show the purpose, value, and merit that it serves. He is intentional in his approach to the use of data in relation to fluid movement of all students regarding the three tiers in academics and behavior.
Mr. Gauck is an incredibly innovative and devoted teacher. He makes Science come alive for students and his passion for the subject is contagious. Matt designs lessons that get kids moving, collaborating and problem solving. Last year, he brought NASA and Mars to the classroom through a unit that included designing and constructing rovers out of pasta and a video chat with a NASA employee. He extended the lesson into the Language Arts curriculum, where students wrote and submitted persuasive essays to participate in NASA’s nationwide contest to name the rover that will land on Mars in 2021. This thematic unit had students excited for each day, as Matt had sparked their interest in all things space-related!
Mr. Gauck leads our school as a member of the Hamilton City School District technology team, serves as our Bridgeport TLC (Technology Learning Consultant), member of our BLT (Building Leadership Team), leader of our schoolwide STEAM initiative and established an after school STEM Club. As one of our building TLCs, Matt has trained the staff in several technology-based teaching/learning tools. He takes the initiative to lead after-school STEM club meetings. He is always looking for ways to engage our students and increase their learning! He chairs our Student Technology Action Team and has presented countless professional development opportunities for our staff. He is dedicated to school-wide growth in technology and consistently works 1:1 with staff members to coach in their instructional practices integrating technology in the classroom. He has a natural understanding of what it means to be an administrative and instructional leader. Mr. Gauck believes in collaboration, communication, and teamwork to move our team forward. His ability to lead his colleagues and students to success is more than impressive. He has a natural ability to cultivate leadership qualities in people and he makes decisions in the best interest of students in each situation. Mr. Gauck has an innate ability to remove barriers to ensure teaching and learning are always possible. His dogged determination and work ethic leave an impressionable mark on the staff, students, parents, and community members. As one of our building TLCs, Matt has trained the staff in several technology-based teaching/learning tools. He takes the initiative to lead after-school STEM club meetings. He is always looking for ways to engage our students and increase their learning!
Matt makes time to help everyone, including staff and students. He is very knowledgeable about technology and gets frequent visits from colleagues seeking help or wishing to learn more. Even if he is busy, Matt takes the time to listen, answer questions and offer advice whenever he is asked. Staff and students see that Matt is genuinely happy to help. He is truly a wonderful colleague and educator. Mr. Gauck is a teacher who is fair and consistent in his message to students, colleagues, and parents. His understanding of the purpose and role of discipline helps to minimize student disruptions and solve problems before escalation. His knowledge of supervision and best instructional practices allows him to provide targeted and thorough instruction to a diverse group of learners. In addition, he maintains a positive rapport with students and families as his feedback, assistance, and open communication are essential in improving classroom instruction, which is demonstrated by his ability to foster positive, effective relationships. For all these reasons and more, Matt is Bridgeports Harry T. Wilks Hamilton Celebrates Education Educator of Excellence Nominee.
Stephanie Glassmeyer - Third Grade Teacher
St. Ann's Catholic School
St. Ann was known for God's grace. She was a warm, generous, and compassionate woman dedicated to helping others. It is only fitting that Stephanie Glassmeyer exemplifies these characteristics as well. Stephanie radiates warmth and compassion. Whether you are a student, colleague, or parent, everyone immediately feels that he or she is a valued member of Stephanie's school family. Her students encapsulate her welcoming presence. Following her example, you will frequently hear her students asking teachers, staff, and students about their day extending an inviting atmosphere.
Stephanie works tirelessly to ensure that her students receive an optimal education. Creativity shines through her engaging lessons as you often see her students enthusiastically solving mystery clues to breakout riddles and so much more! The students are not the only ones fortunate to know Stephanie, teachers and parents are blessed as well. Stephanie quickly volunteers to help colleagues in any capacity from technology, monitoring after school clubs, to sharing her student teacher binders. Her generosity is unlimited. Stephanie warmly embraces parent participation and they warmly embrace Stephanie.
Stephanie encourages personal responsibility with her students in all areas, not just academically. Stephanie builds a "team" atmosphere with her class that makes learning fun! Within the school community, and the community at large, Stephanie has found ways for everyone to help support those in need.
Being on the Mentoring Committee, it has been a joy to watch Stephanie grow as an educator over the past two plus years. The art of teaching comes naturally to her. She has really developed her craft and made the progression into leadership roles appear seamless. Not only has she blossomed as an exceptional educator in a short period of time, her helpful hands and willing spirit have helped to guide and model for new Primary Teachers. You would never guess she has only been teaching for two years!
She is such a team player when it comes to staff relationships and collaboration. When COVID-19 forced the closure of our school, Stephanie not only stepped up and created meaningful lessons which incorporated the use of technology in innovative ways for her students, she was the first to help any fellow staff member who had questions regarding technology! She made herself available every school day to her students and their families to provide support during an unprecedented and worrisome time. In turn, Stephanie has taught important lessons to the students that when everyone pitches in a little, a lot can get done! She is an amazing blessing not only to Team Primary, but to the entire school community. It is with great pleasure that St. Ann would like to announce our Educator of Excellence nominee as Stephanie Glassmeyer!
Cheryl Hunt – Kindergarten/Assistant Principal
Queen of Peace School
Cheryl Hunt is an indispensable resource at Queen of Peace School. She has been a fixture at the school for over 20 years. In that time, she has nurtured a whole generation of kindergarteners who, years later, still remember her and the impact she had on their education. Mrs. Hunt's students just love being kindergarteners. She provides them the structure, foundational knowledge, and social skills they need to succeed in school.
Also, as the school's Catechetical Leader, Mrs. Hunt plays a crucial role in helping organize religious retreats and in preparing its students to receive the religious sacraments that are part of belonging to Queen of Peace School. This often requires extra hours of planning and extra time at school or church. Mrs. Hunt gives of herself in this way without quarrel or complaint. It's part of who she is.
Mrs. Hunt is one of those teachers who you know is "all in." Whenever it comes time to do a mental tally of who can be called on to spearhead an initiative or be part of a planning effort, her name is always on the list. There aren't many folks like this in any given workplace. Some places might not have any. This is all the more reason to celebrate Mrs. Hunt for being a total dynamo on behalf of any cause that stands to benefit QP students or the wider school community.
"Beyond the call of duty" is the only way Mrs. Hunt knows how to do her job. She doesn't keep score or maintain any mental ledger of the time and labor she freely gives. That's not her gig. She's not in it for the awards (even though she deserves one!). The best ones never are. She's in it for the plain love of what she does.
When the school's principal was sidelined two years ago by multiple surgeries, she became the de facto principal while still teaching kindergarten full time. She did this because the school needed it. That's the only reason. She still retains the title of assistant principal since she carries so many extra duties, including a major advisory role in administrative decisions.
Cheryl Hunt is the best possible ambassador for Queen of Peace School. She is the most visible and present smiling face at any given QP function. It is appropriate, therefore, to enumerate here the many roles she serves in the life of the school and community…..
School Tour Guide - Whenever a family wants to tour the school and learn more about it, she is the point person. Mrs. Hunt never fails to get students excited about the idea of coming to QP!
Parent Group Liaison- The school's version of PTO owes its existence to Mrs. Hunt. She helped recruit many of its current members and has been very excited this year to see so many new families involved!
Hospitality Coordinator- If there is an event that needs a theme and perhaps some respectable decor to complement it, Mrs. Hunt has it covered! Member of Catholic Identity Team - Our school has a committed group of teachers who create programming that reinforces our school's identity as a Catholic educational institution. Mrs. Hunt plays a major role here.
Thank you, Mrs. Hunt, for embodying the truth that educating young people involves so much more than what occurs inside the walls of a classroom. Go Vikings!
Joey Malone - 6th Grade ELA/Social Studies Teacher
This school year, we are proud to announce that our nominee for educator of the year is 6th grade teacher Joey Malone! It has been my honor to work with Joey over the past five years, but many of our staff have worked with her their entire careers. Simply stated, Mrs. Malone has a HEART FOR STUDENTS! Each day, Joey brings learning to LIFE! Her class is one of the rare combinations of high expectations for academic growth and incredible relationships with students and families. Joey is the pinnacle of what it means to be a member of the Highland PRIDE!
The true evidence of an educator’s value lies in the hearts and minds of the people we serve. Joey’s colleagues describe how much of an impact she truly makes. Her colleague and teaching partner Tyler Downey describes her unique way of building rapport with her students: “Joey treats her students like they are her own kids. She always asks them about how their day is going and things going in her life…” He goes on to describe the connections she makes as a leader / mentor on the staff: “She has helped me grow as a teacher and always makes me feel valued. I couldn’t imagine working with a different partner. She leads by example demonstrating how a mom, teacher, and Hamilton citizen should act.” Tyler’s word ring true to so many other members of our staff. Her constant example of what we want our students to become echoes throughout the halls of Highland Elementary.
Other colleagues describe Joey in similar terms. She demonstrates incredible patience with students and has the ability to hone in on the students’ growth while giving them individual attention. Her longtime colleague Lindsay Boatright states that even in difficult situations, Joey consistently “keeps a smile on her face, a gentle tone, and encourages students every step of the way.” Students in Mrs. Malone’s class are held to a higher standard because she is able to forge such positive relationships with them and their families. Mrs. Malone has been known to stay late into the evening making phone calls to parents or guardians of students who she knows could give a little more effort if given the right boost.
Joey’s unique talents as an educator are not limited to high performing students. She also has a heart and willingness to work with some of our students with specific learning disabilities. She sees them as capable of the same growth as the other students in her class! Intervention specialist Katie Mattson describes Joey as a teacher who “holds all of her students to a high standard because she wholeheartedly believes
in every child. She allows her students to make mistakes in her class and then teaches them how to learn from them / overcome adversity.” Katie continues by stating, “All students know that Joey cares about them the moment they walk into her classroom. She is a teacher that every child should have and I am a better educator for working alongside her each and every day!” It is for all of the reasons that Highland Elementary, THE PRIDE, is proud to announce our 2019-2020 Educator of Excellence - JOEY MALONE!
Amber Massey - Language Arts
The Miami School - Hamilton City School District
Teenagers in credit recovery programs need much more than tutoring and a second chance to earn credit in a course. Coming to the Miami School with obstacles that have caused them to get off track in their goal toward a high school diploma, many of these students need consistent support, understanding, short-term and long-term goal-setting, differentiation of instruction, grace, guidance, and occasionally a side chat and a reality check. Within her core values and strength of character, Amber Massey finds the energy and talent to provide just the leadership her students need to succeed. Certified in English Language Arts, Amber puts her instructional skills to work in a blended classroom setting that uses online coursework and teacher-generated interactive lessons that prepare her students for completing credits and passing state tests. However, she brings so much more to her students.
In addition to lessons in core subject areas of literature, grammar, writing, and speech, Ms. Massey provides lessons and experiences that help students with life skills, college-career readiness, alternate pathways to graduation, credit flex options, and mental health. Her students trust her and often go to her for questions about their life situations outside of the classroom. Since many of her students are young adults and living on their own, some with children, and most employed as they attend school, there are days when they need more than an English teacher. They need someone who listens attentively with empathy, someone who gives sound advice, and someone who can redirect their focus back to their schoolwork for the day.
Working with an incredible staff of passionate and caring colleagues at the Miami School, Ms. Massey often serves as the teacher leader for projects, professional development events, mental health referrals, and quarterly reports. Amber is our "Lucy" from the Charles Schultz's Peanuts cartoon. The "doctor" is always "in" after school around Amber's desk. She has a connection with each of her colleagues, and she is quick to welcome new staff members to the team. She has a great sense of humor, but she also is sensitive to listen to other 's frustrations of the day. She helps to motivate and organize team projects; she searches for solutions when challenges arise; and she is comfortable speaking up for her students, particularly for garnering more resources and support. Amber is the point person for all field trips to colleges and career centers. She travels with our students to the high school for testing and job fairs. She has organized trips to help students learn the transit system to be able to get to better jobs and training. She has also partnered with media specialist Karlen Topping to offer a book club to encourage reading and dialogue about common interests and issues.
While she is a great advocate for her students, Amber also teaches students to advocate for themselves. One of the strengths is her transparency about her past experiences, including both failures and successes that have led her to a successful educational career. Students trust adults who are genuine, and who have walked a path that has had some bumps and interruptions along the way. After graduation, students continue to stay in contact with her and keep her updated on their lives after high school.
This year the Miami School graduated a record number of seniors, which was particularly challenging when COVID-19 kept teachers and students quarantined and relying on technology to stay connected. The staff set up a system of daily and weekly contacts to keep students motivated. Without the face-to-face daily encouragement and tutoring at school, we thought we might lose our teenagers to video games and relaxed free time. Amber learned that most of her students were not active in the mornings, either because of long work hours the night before or because they didn't have to get out of bed early to come to school anymore. Even though our contractual times kept teachers accountable online through the work day, Amber learned that she could stay in contact with her students better if she remained actively online and accessible by email late into the evenings. The session logs and emails about online coursework showed that students completed assignments long after midnight.
Undaunted when some of her students were unresponsive to the staff's contacts, Ms. Massey worked through her social network of actively working students to reach those who had "checked out" through the months of quarantine. For many students suffering from depression and stress o"' the COVID-19 or life in general, Amber's encouragement and repeated check-ins with them helped to regroup and get back online to earn their credits. Undoubtedly, the record number of Miami School graduates is due, in large part, to the fact that their teachers refuse to let them give up. Amber and her colleagues worked tirelessly to keep students engaged in their schooling, and their efforts paid off.
Beyond the classroom, Amber has coached young women in powder puff softball, SAY soccer, and basketball for St. Joseph's and for the Hamilton Freshman School. Also, she is a facilitator for WHY TRY, a program designed for hard-to-handle teens. It is important to Amber to be a role model for her daughter and for young women in the Hamilton community.
Because of her positive impact on her students, and for her exemplary practice of adaptability, flexibility, and reliability, Amber Massey is the Miami School's 2019-2020 Educator of Excellence Nominee.
Jennifer Meadows - Kindergarten Teacher
Crawford Woods Elementary School
Mrs. Meadows is a truly inspirational Kindergarten teacher, proudly proclaimed to be our “Kinderbean Queen”. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2002 earning her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. In 2006 she received her masters in Curriculum Instruction and Assessment at Walden University.
Jennifer started her teaching journey for Hamilton City Schools 18 years ago and has taught Kindergarten every year since. Jennifer has made herself visible throughout the district, teaching at a variety of buildings: Madison, McKinley Kindergarten Center, Filmore, Van Buren, and now Crawford Woods. Not only is Mrs. Meadows visible in the district, but her impact is ever-present and long-lasting in the building at Crawford Woods.
When asked how they felt about Mrs. Meadows, former students glowed, saying, “she is a wonderful teacher and we are glad to have had her in kindergarten”, “she is my favorite teacher”, “I loved when she read to me”, “she was a kind-hearted teacher”, “she was the sweetest of them all”, and “she always helped us out”.
Jennifer is a true example of making every minute count--transition times in the hallways and even dismissal are used to practice letter naming and sounds. Not a moment of the day is left to waste with Mrs. Meadows teaching bell to bell! But the learning doesn’t stop at academics; Students grow in their maturity, communication, behavior self-management, and CONFIDENCE whenever they are in her presence.
They say it takes a very special person to teach Kindergarten; Mrs. Meadows is so special to the students and staff at Crawford Woods Elementary that they’ve nominated her as their 2020 Educator of Excellence! The Wildcat Family is proud to have such a dedicated and hardworking educator among us!
Kristy Neeley - Intervention Specialist
Hamilton High School - Main Campus
Kristy Neeley is an intervention specialist at Hamilton High School and department chair of the largest school-based department in the Hamilton City School District. She oversees a caseload of more than 300 students while supervising and supporting 20 teachers and 25 teaching assistants.
Kristy is truly a role model and inspiration for the staff at Big Blue. She upholds a high level of professionalism when working with families, colleagues, and students that is highly coveted by the families we serve. Mrs. Neeley has everyone’s best interest at heart and will do what it takes to help students succeed. Kristy is always available for support any time of day, any day of the week, for any reason. She has such incredible drive and passion for the field of special education that keeps our department strong. Teachers and administrators have learned so much from her. We are better educators for having worked with her.
The special education team at HHS trusts Kristy in her knowledge of best practices, and her willingness to advocate for both students and staff. Kristy is highly organized and understands the importance of schedules, accuracy, and deadlines. She maintains precise records to keep our department within compliance. While this attention to detail is of utmost importance in the field of special education, Kristy is also able to model adaptability for fellow staff members. She has great compassion for children and works diligently to ensure the specially designed instruction each of our students needs is provided in a productive and ethical manner. Kristy is one of the hardest workers in Hamilton High School. She is constantly working to ensure students and staff are set up for success. When special education teachers or assistants need help with instruction or best practices, Kristy is available and willing to assist. Kristy is respected by building administrators, teachers, counselors, and students. Many times, she has to make decisions or carry out decisions that may not be popular, but she does so with the best intentions of students and families. The Hamilton High School staff respects her for her knowledge and her integrity - a true sign of an excellent leader.
For these reasons and many others that we are pleased to have Kristy Neeley represent Hamilton High School as the Harry T. Wilks Excellence in Education Award Winner.
Betsie Ostermyer - 6th Grade ELA/Social Studies
Brookwood Elementary School
Ad Astra Per Aspara; To the stars through difficulties. This motto was adopted by Ms. Ostermyer and her classes this year as a tribute to the reality of life situations in our current world. Students learned of the Latin origin of the phrase but more importantly made connections to the meaning of this powerful statement in a time during which difficulties are real and everywhere. Ms. Ostermyer has taught her students that life will offer great challenges but that working together through these difficulties will allow each of us to reach our highest potential. It is this belief in personal achievement created everyday for students by Ms. Osteryer that serve as an exemplar of what education can and should be. Ms. Ostermyer challenges students to push themselves to greatness every day by being better than they were the day before. Our school is proud to nominate Ms. Ostermyer as Brookwood Elementary School’s 2019-2020 Educator of Excellence.
One needs only to walk into Ms. Ostermyer’s classroom for a moment to feel the pulse of learning in action. Students quite literally jump out of their seats to participate in lively class discussions. The love of learning is palpable anytime you enter Ms. Ostermyers class. She challenges every student to reach their full potential and provides them the nurturing supportive environment in which to do exactly that. It is a rare educator that is able to instill a love of learning in students that becomes the motivator for their learning, yet Ms. Ostermyer does exactly that. Students are engaged in the learning process and know that Ms. Ostermyer truly cares for their academic and emotional well being. The classroom environment created by Ms. Ostermyer and her students are inviting and supportive to all who enter.
Ms. Ostermyer encourages students to think creatively and celebrates the unique thoughts each individual possesses. Students learn the true importance of listening to one another and hearing other’s perspectives and ideas. Students are able to respond respectfully to each other even in the case of disagreement. It is through experiences like this that our Bluejays are learning that every voice matters and that every individual is unique and while they may have different points of view, their contributions are important. These lessons go far beyond the classroom as they plant seeds of how to be constructive free thinking citizens for a better tomorrow.
In addition to the contributions Ms. Ostermyer makes in the classroom, she is a teacher leader in the building. Ms. Ostermyer serves as a technology coach at Brookwood Elementary School. In this role, she not only supports other teachers in the building she models technology as a resource for teachers to enhance the student learning experience. These challenging times have redefined the need for technology in schools in ways never thought possible. Ms. Ostermyer has stepped up to the call to provide support and professional development opportunities for staff, students, and families in these unprecedented times.
Ms. Ostermyer also provides instructional support to new teachers. The following statement was shared by a novice teacher in the building, “Betsie is a great example of a wonderful teacher and lover of books. Throughout my years at Brookwood, I have looked up to Betsie and the way she runs her classroom. I haven't seen a classroom with more student engagement and students working together and co-learning. It's a real beautiful thing and she makes it look effortless. I have had many conversations with students who have said "I hated to read until Ms. Ostermyer helped me find books I liked and now I can't put my books down." She does a wonderful job of connecting with her students and differentiating for every learner.”
Ms. Ostermyer has touched the lives of hundreds of students and colleagues in the twenty three years of service she has dedicated to the Hamilton City School district. In her classroom hangs a frame with the following quote, “The influence of a good teacher can never be erased”. The influence Ms. Ostermyer has daily upon the lives of others will continue to make positive waves within the Hamilton community. Ms. Ostermyer is a pillar of the Brookwood community who makes a positive difference in the lives of everyone she engages with. It is for these many reasons that we are honored to nominate Ms. Betsie Ostermyer as the 2019-2020 recipient for the Harry T. Wilks Educator Award of Excellence. The district and our building are fortunate that this Chiefs fan from Kansas City has made her home in Hamilton.
Jimi Sizemore - 7th & 8th Grade Physical Education
Garfield Middle School
Mr. Jimi Sizemore...AKA Mr. Hamilton and Garfield Middle School’s Educator of Excellence Nominee.
Within the Griffin community, Mr. Sizemore has made it his mission to develop positive relationships with both his colleagues and students and has earned their respect. He extends this mission out into the rest of the Hamilton community where he is well known for his involvement and dedication to Hamilton. Mr. Sizemore is the first to volunteer for both in school and out of school projects (i.e 8th grade recognition, 17 strong, 2019-20 Adopt a Senior). Within his classroom, Mr. Sizemore understands the individual needs of students and encourages their talents and fosters their self-esteem. What makes Jimi stand out from other nominees is that Mr. Sizemore is not only student centered but community centered. He is Mr. Hamilton!
Middle school is a challenging time for students as they search to discover who they are and what their interests are. Mr. Sizemore makes this challenge a bit more accessible and his students respect and admire him for that. which is evident by the 100% student participation! When asked how he accomplishes this, his kind and honest response explains it clearly, “I want them coming into class in a good mood and leaving in a better mood.” An exemplary educator, Mr. Sizemore, maximizes instruction time. He takes a true interest in his students and makes each lesson accessible for students to feel success. Mr. Sizemore makes the time to personally recognize students by sending letters of recognition home with them. For example, he will write, "I am writing to inform you that your child, [name], has been a pleasure to have in PE class. Your child always comes to my class prepared and ready to learn. [he/she] is always displaying positive character traits such as responsibility, compassion, leadership, and sportsmanship. Keep up the great work in preparing your child for greatness in the classroom!" Additionally, Mr. Sizemore has developed and designed an effective quick reference to highlight what he values and expects from his students. DOBES: Dress, Objective; Behavior; Effort; and Sportsmanship. Mr. Sizemore is not only known as Mr. Hamilton, but adoringly referenced with the play on words, as Gyme. In fact, one teacher goes on to make the following statement, “Gyme is the epitome of Garfield and Hamilton. Gyme has poured his heart and soul into this school and will continue to do so even when he leaves. He treats all staff members with respect and makes a lot of them roll of laughter.”
Mr. Sizemore has been working in Hamilton City School District for 17 years and his passion and dedication continues to grow and show each year. His care, kindness and passion not only is shown and shining through the halls at Garfield Middle School but in the community as well. He goes above and beyond everyday to help not only his students he has in class but ALL students in HCSD. He is there for his colleagues when they need him and is selfless to be there for them. He connects with parents in the community and develops relationships to build the trust between a school and a teacher. Doing this all while being a husband, father to middle school twin boys. He does these things because he wants to and out of the kindness of his heart and isn't looking for accolades or awards. Mr. Sizemore goes above and beyond the gym floor to build solid foundations for students to strive for success. His focus is on students' success in life and not just academics. Mr. Sizemore continues to establish strong roots in the community. He is a great leader and mentor to all Griffins both past and present. As far as long impact, most often we as educators do not realize the impact made on students until they get older. An example of still making an impact is witnessing Mr. Sizemore "adopt" a 2020 senior to help make their graduation special. Mr. Sizemore is unselfish when it comes to students and to the school; he only wants what is best for both students and the school.
A true Hamiltonian, Jimi was eager to participate in the 17Strong North End Neighborhood group, ReNew. At his first meeting, he impressed the group with offering his colleagues to help with a neighborhood clean up. In fact, his outreach was so impactful that the Journal News covered his story. As copied from the article, “Twenty-six teachers, and nearly 10 residents will be pitching in to make the community cleaner, said Joanne Wallisch, a Rossville neighborhood but in recent years has fostered efforts to strengthen the neighborhood organization in the North End as part of Hamilton’s 17Strong program. The article goes on to note, “Jimi is new to our group, but said, ‘You know what? If we’re having a cleanup, the teachers should help. And he’s the one who organized that,” Wallisch said.” Former Councilwoman and 17Strong founding member, Kathleen Klink, also noted Jimi’s contributions in the article. Saying, “...she’s “flabergasted, and overjoyed” by the volunteering teachers”. The article continues, “Klink said she was at a RENEW meeting and saw Sizemore tell everyone, “’We’ve got to do something. We just can’t be observers. We have to be active.‘”
“How cool is that?” Klink said. From in school events, to 17 Strong, to adopting high school seniors, Mr. Sizemore is the dictionary definition of Teacher of the Year and 120% deserves this award.
Amy Starnes - Second Grade Teacher
Linden Elementary School
Ms. Starnes is an amazing teacher and role model that has taught in the Hamilton City School district for 33 years. The staff nominated her because she is a leading example of what we all want in an educator. She is always thoughtful, generous, encouraging and loves the challenges of her students each day. Her students love her and she is an inspiration for all new and veteran teachers. She is described by her co-workers as the female Mr. Rogers as she is always so kind, very patient and what all educators should strive to be like.
Ms. Starnes builds amazing relationships with her students. On a daily basis she creates a community of learners in an environment that is filled with enthusiasm and passion. She takes time to get to know her students and develops interest in their interests. She has a great sense of humor and will start the class with a joke of the day and a comic strip.
Ms. Starnes goes up and beyond her duties as a teacher at Linden. For example, every year, second grade performs a program to honor those who have served in the Armed Forces for Veterans' Day. There are many things that need to be done in order to honor our Veterans. Amy Starnes has taken the lead every year in teaching the students about the Veterans' Memorial at the cemetery near the school. She arranges the walking field trip with the cemetery, as well as makes sure each student has a flag to decorate the memorial. The flags stay for a day or 2, and then she goes back to the cemetery to pick up the flags.
Ms. Starnes' classroom exists and functions on strong principles and routines, along with strong values to guide her class. She is resilient and pushes herself to always be changing, adapting and improving. This is evident through all the learning she did when her class went to remote learning. She was able to learn how to use the technology needed and apply it while still being positive. She even was one of the first at Linden to create a Bitmoji for her remote classroom.
Mrs. Starnes is a true leader in the building. As school changed to remote learning in the spring of 2020, Mrs. Starnes always stayed cool, calm and collected during the toughest times. As colleagues have stated “She is a shining light at Linden”, and “we turn to her for guidance during tough times”.
Once again, Linden is extremely proud to recognize Ms. Starnes as Linden’s Educator of Excellence. The children of Linden benefit in so many ways under the direction of this accomplished educator.
Frances Verdon - Kindergarten Teacher
Immanuel Lutheran School
Kindergarten is a challenging grade. Students, for the first time, are going full day. They are exhausted and it takes everything in them to manage the emotions that are just under the surface. They miss their parents and they can’t yet identify the value of school. Imagine engaging students and developing students in that environment. Frances Verdon does it in style!
She works hard to make learning fun and rewarding. The learning approaches of PBIS and PAX are integrated in every plan and strategy. Because of this, students are actively engaged and enjoy class. Her students always appear excited about learning and being at school. Year in and year out even the most hesitant of students thrive in her classroom. Fran interacts with students in a positive way even when the relationship is strained by undesired behaviors.
At the heart of Mrs. Verdon’s innovation is a desire to reach the students. There are no two students alike. Knowing this, Mrs. Verdon does not insist on her way but adapts and adjusts to the learners in the room. She works very well with her co-teacher, Mrs. Farmer. The two of them create a safe atmosphere that meets the needs of the diverse student population. Mrs. Verdon’s lessons are innovative. She is always looking for ways to incorporate STEM into her student’s learning. She includes many hands on, engaging activities to intrinsically motivate her students and generate a curiosity that makes them lifelong learners.
The same desire Fran uses to excel in the classroom also spills over into building-wide projects. Mrs. Verdon serves on the intervention team and has an extensive list of students whom she tutors after school. Last year she reimagined, launched, and now continues to maintain the ILS’s Parent Teacher Organization.
Mrs. Verdon has a desire to understand other points of view. She teaches accountable talk and uses it herself. She keeps things light and is always good for a laugh. All are extremely blessed by her presence and contributions. Immanuel Lutheran School proudly nominates Frances Verdon as our Educator of Excellence!
Angie Wirtz - Eighth Grade Teacher
St. Peter in Chains
Ms. Wirtz has a daily impact on students within our community by always having a smile on her face and a willingness to help students with not only their academics but with social, emotional, and spiritual needs. Students love taking her classes because they feel nurtured and loved in her room. Ms. Wirtz is always pleasant and greets every one of her students each morning as they come into her room. She truly puts kids first.
Ms. Wirtz has shown innovation within her position by always thinking outside the box and asking questions as to why we can't do certain things. She is truly an advocate for students and has some of the most creative science lessons for students. Her lessons are engaging for students and forces them to think critically about each lesson.
Ms. Wirtz does all the "extra duties" like dismissal but has also stepped up to organize the 7th and 8th grade Washington DC trip this year. In addition, she covers classes without pay and is willing to help solve school wide problems that contribute to a better school.
Ms. Wirtz has contributed as a leader within the school by being a teacher leader. Many younger teachers seek her guidance and input not only with academic and behavioral concerns, but with emotional and spiritual concerns with students. Ms. Wirtz is always willing to serve others and that is a characteristic of an effective leader. The St. Peter in Chains family is proud to honor Ms. Wirtz as this year's Harry T. Wilks Educator of Excellence Nominee for 2020!
Bernadette Zimmerman - 7th & 8th Grade Teacher
St. Joseph Consolidated School
Bernie's distinguished career in elementary education spans twenty-six years of shaping young lives and building up the greater Hamilton community.
Following her graduation from Miami University in 1980, where she completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, Bernie launched her professional career as a 2nd grade teacher at St. Mary Catholic School. After a consolidation of parishes, St. Mary later became St. Julie Catholic School. In 2001, she accepted a leadership position, taking on the role of principal at Queen of Peace School in Millville. She served as principal there for 8 years. In 2012, she came to St. Joseph Consolidated School as a junior high teacher and team leader. In the succeeding 8 years, she has excelled in both of those roles and established herself as an indispensable member of our school's leadership team. Bernie has clearly earned a high level of respect and admiration within our school community. "Bernie is a great support to all our staff on so many different levels."
"So many students and parents have said that Mrs. Z's teaching style is very personal for them. She passes on her love of education in all of her lessons."
"One of the most professional teachers with whom I have had the privilege to work is Bernie Zimmerman. The professionalism she exhibits inspires me to reach the same level. After many years of experience, Bernie still seeks the advice of her peers which demonstrates humility and her willingness to continue to learn. She sets high expectations of her students and designs cross-curricular projects that allow students to discover connections in the world. The students at St. Joseph are fortunate to experience and benefit from Bernie's passion and enthusiasm for education."
Bernie exemplifies the best traits of a professional educator and administrator and has done so throughout her career. She is without a doubt a highly qualified candidate for the Educator of Excellence. We are proud to have her as a member of our staff and delighted to be given the opportunity to recommend her for this much deserved recognition.