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Confident and strong

BY Linda Wilk

It wasn’t just the classroom teaching that most students who spoke about why they chose a particular teacher focused on at the recent 3.5 Banquet at Oak Hill High School.

For some of the 25 Senior students, it wasn’t even a teacher who they chose to recognize – it was a coach or an administrator.

What I heard over and over during the speeches was how influential each of the adults were with their students’ lives. The comments included how the adults stretched the students, encouraged them, assisted them with life choices and believed in each student.

One student commented how Mrs. Edwards had a way of ensuring that every student, even that student in the back of the classroom who others might not even know is there, felt a part of the classroom.

Mrs. Edwards’s class was described as 50 minutes of sunshine – other words to describe those adults that the students spoke about included kind, patient, compassionate, amazing, wonderful, challenging and continually supportive.

There were also some light moments during the night.

Like the fact that while Mr. Durkes was recognized by five students, all of those five students during their speech made a point of stating they did not like history, which is the subject Mr. Durkes teaches.

“I am not a fan of history by any means, but Durkes still somehow managed to be my favorite teacher, mostly because of my experience with him outside of history class,” my daughter Andrea said.

Durkes is Andrea’s throwing coach for track and during her speech she commented that it was the fact that Durkes helped Andrea get out of her comfort zone by reaching out to her and encouraging her to throw. While Durkes first tried to convince Andrea to throw her freshman year, she said she wasn’t ready to try it until her sophomore year.

“He convinced me to throw sophomore year, and more than that, he saw how good I could be and never let me forget it,” Andrea said. “He emailed me a few times during that first year to make sure that I believed in myself as much as he believed in me,” Andrea said. “The fact that he took time to reach out and encourage me meant a lot. I still have those emails actually.”

Andrea went on to say that it is thanks to Durkes that she is the strong and confident person that she is today – what more could a parent ask for, then for her children to be strong and confident!

Similar statements were made by my other daughter Marissa who spoke about her freshman biology teacher Mr. Planck, who was also her JV basketball coach.

“At first I was pretty intimidated by him, but over time I got more comfortable with him and realized that there was no reason for me to be intimidated,” Marissa said. “I learned that while he can be tough and stern, he can also be emotional and caring. He made me more confident as a player and continuously pushed me to get better. He saw potential in me and always made sure to remind me of how much he believed in me.”

“Most importantly, Coach Planck taught me how to stay strong through any situation,” Marissa said, relaying the story of how Coach Planck had a stroke the end of her sophomore year and persevered and came back to help coach the team their senior year.

Marissa also spoke about her fifth-grade teacher Mrs. VanAken who instilled a love for reading in Marissa and her classmates.

“One of the biggest ways she impacted me was she gave me a love for reading,” Marissa said. “I was lucky enough to have been in her last class before she retired, and at the end of the year, instead of packing up all of the books she collected over the years and taking them home, she let all of her students take as many books as we wanted. I still have every single book she gave me, and every time I see any of the books, I see the letter V written on top and I remember Mrs. VanAken and her love for those stories.”

Each of those honored by the 25 students deserve recognition so here they are: Mrs. Windell, Mr. Garverick, Mr. Durkes, Mrs. Strange, Mrs. Edwards, Mr. Huntington, Mr. Law, Mr. Brunner, Mr. Means, Ms. Torrence, Mrs. Detamore, Mr. Wamhoff, Mrs. Brookshire, Mr. Vester, Mr. Ben Hawk, Mrs. Clock, Mrs. Boswell, Mr. Renbarger, Mr. Yordy, Mrs. Place, Ms. Erin Dean, Mrs. Hewitt, Ms. Kincaid, Mrs. VanAken, Mr. Planck, Mr. Wirtz and Mr. McDivitt.

It was an incredibly powerful evening, filled with hope and a sense that in a time when I wonder sometimes if people care for anyone but themselves, I heard over and over again how selfless, giving, and supportive Oak Hill United School Corporation current and past employees are for their students. And for that I am truly thankful and grateful.