By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
Three area teachers who love their jobs were honored at Findlay Rotary Club’s Golden Apple Awards on Wednesday.
“The students are why I do what I do,” Cassie Van Horn, a health professions instructor at Millstream Career Center, said in a video shown at the ceremony. “There’s days that it’s challenging, there’s days that I’m exhausted, but I never leave there thinking that I didn’t make a difference.”
Laurie Zydonik, who presented the high school semifinalists, noted that Van Horn’s students have watched a live open-heart surgery, and she sets up one-on-one meetings between students and medical professionals.
“Her colleagues speak of her extensive classroom planning, and describe her as the hardest-working teacher they’ve ever seen, with a compassionate heart and an unending commitment to her students’ success,” Zydonik said.
“I’m sad for people who don’t love their job, because truly, it does not feel like a job when I go to work,” Van Horn said when accepting the award. “I’m really tickled that I get a paycheck, because it’s so much fun.”
Van Horn said that she hopes former students “come back and tell me their successes” or return for help when they “reach a stumbling block” in college or their career. “It’s a lifelong journey,” she said.
The high school semifinalists were Martie Andrews, intervention specialist at Findlay; and Kris Sherer, art teacher at Cory-Rawson.
The winners received $2,500 cash prizes, and semifinalists received $250.
The middle school winner was Wendi Davis, a band and general music teacher at Cory-Rawson. “In our interview, when asked about the times when the instruments aren’t being played in great harmony, she stated she hears ‘hope and progress,'” said Rick Polder, who presented the middle school category.
“Teaching is an art and a science, because you have to learn all of the content that you need to know, you have to be an expert in your content area,” Davis said in her video. “But then the greater challenge, and the fun part, I think, is when you can use the art of teaching to know what is going to reach a student at a particular time, what’s going to be most beneficial, what’s going to make that light bulb moment happen for them. And it’s different with every kid on every day, so it’s like a psychological puzzle sometimes trying to figure out what’s going to work right then.”
Polder said Davis could pick out each individual instrument in the class they observed. “Suggestions for improvement were well-received, and given in such a manner as to not embarrass the student and benefit the class as a whole.”
The middle school semifinalists were Kathleen Rayle, an intervention specialist at Glenwood Middle School in Findlay; and David Sorensen, instrumental music instructor at Arlington. Tom Whipkey, a fourth-grade teacher at Wilson Vance Intermediate School in Findlay, won the elementary category.
Teaching is about a group “working together, being in a group, saying, ‘We’re going to learn to get along, even though we’re all really different, and we’re going to work together to have the best year we can possibly have,'” Whipkey said in his video.
Matt Hull, the elementary presenter, said that Whipkey has high expectations for his students, and they rise to that. To them, “he’s also the funniest person on the planet.”
Those who nominated him said that “he is the teacher that every parent wants for their child,” Hull said.
“It’s always about the children, and I think we need to remember that,” Whipkey said in his acceptance speech. “They come every day, and they need you, and as an educator we need to be there for them.”
The elementary semifinalists were Bridgett Bunn, an intervention specialist at Van Buren; and Denise Matson, a physical education teacher at Liberty-Benton.