Local teachers honored for dedication


By Ryan Berry


GREENVILLE — Seven teachers from the Darke County schools that are part of the Darke County Educational Service Center (ESC) were recognized on Wednesday, May 15 in a special luncheon at Birchwood Training Center with the Teacher of the Year Award for their districts. The C. Michael Crawford Mentor of the Year was also recognized.

ESC Superintendent Jim Atchley welcomed the educators to the event that he said he considers one of the best days of the year because he gets to recognize staff. “It’s an award that is typically voted on by your peers,” he said. “There is no greater accomplishment or achievement than being honored by those who you work with on a daily basis.”

According to Atchley, the award is given to individuals who embody the pinnacle of dedication. He said these teachers not only impart knowledge, but also “fan the flame of curiosity within their students.” Those who earn the Teacher of the Year Award go above and beyond and invest countless hours in lesson planning, professional development and individualized attention to their students.

Atchley explained the impact these teachers make goes well beyond the classroom walls where they serve as friends, mentors, advocates, and sometimes as surrogate parents to those in need.

This year’s Teacher of the Year Awards were presented to the following teachers. All are elementary teachers.

Karla Kunk received the award from Ansonia schools. Principal Ashlee Fourman shared that Kunk jumped from teaching second grade to fourth grade this year. “She has done a great job and got the kids involved in hands-on things,” said Fourman.

Elementary Principal Joni Pechie, of Arcanum, presented the Teacher of the Year Award to Erin Fout. Pechie said Fout runs the school’s Early Learning Center and “is the Arcanum Learning Center.” She said all of the little kids start strong when they enter kindergarten.

Jana Berning was the award winner from Bradford Elementary School. Principal Michelle Lavey pointed out that Berning taught first grade for seven years and is now a Title 1 teacher. “She has such a passion for teaching our Title 1 students all the different rules they need to know to be successful readers.” Lavey also pointed out that Berning is level-headed and “always comes to a solution”.

Franklin Monroe Principal Megan Linder announced Kristine Happy as the district’s Teacher of the Year. Happy is a fourth-grade teacher. Linder said, “She is a person who holds our building together. She is the person everybody goes to for advice.”

Greenville Elementary Principal Sue Dankworth introduced Patti Kiefer as their Teacher of the Year. Dankworth said Kiefer is amazing and has a true passion for the reading process. She has been an intervention specialist and now provides IMSE training and has done incredible work with students with dyslexia.

Teresa Birt has been a teacher at Mississinawa Valley (MV) for 39 years and has been in the profession for 40 years. She recently announced her retirement. MV Elementary Principal Stephanie Kemp praised Birt for her longevity, but pointed out that academics are only a part of Birt’s contribution to the district. She said she has been there to listen to the students whenever they need to talk.

Tri-Village Elementary Principal Shane Mead introduced Heather Richards as the district’s Teacher of the Year. Mead has been teaching for 30 years and has been a fourth grade, first grade and Title 1 teacher. She is currently teaching second grade. He said, “She is a great teacher, but more importantly, a better person.”

April Hoying, director of curriculum for the ESC. Announced Jaimee Garbig, from Arcanum-Butler as the winner of the C. Michael Crawford Mentor of the Year Award. This is the 20th year the ESC has given the award. The award is named for Michael Crawford who developed the mentorship program for new teachers in the mid-1990s, which was several years before the state required school districts develop mentorship programs for new teachers. The plaque Hoying received states, “The delicate balance of mentoring is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” Hoying said this speaks to what Garbig was able to do as a mentor.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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