Wilma Erwin

Position: Special Education Director

School: Washington-Nile Local School District

School District: Washington-Nile Local School District

City, State: West Portsmouth, Ohio

About the Nominee: Wilma Erwin was nominated by her superintendent, Jeff Stricklett. Ms. Erwin has served as the special education director in Washington-Nile Local School District for ten years. She has served in education as a teacher or administrator for over 40 years.

Ms. Erwin considers the needs and success of her students as her top priority. Her district has tackled many changes in regards to instruction and student success. Ms. Erwin has worked through many challenges throughout the district. Through her work and determination, her district is going through an exciting time. She is one of the district leaders trying to bring a positive change regarding instructional culture. She has worked many hours away from school to help Washington-Nile reach its goals and expectations.

Ms. Erwin is an educator that pours her heart and soul into doing what is best for students. She has changed the life of many students over her 40+ years of service.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="wilma.erwin@westsenators.org"]

Lauren Richardson

Position: Eighth Grade Spanish Teacher

School: Mason Middle School

School District: Mason City Schools

City, State: Mason, Ohio

About the Nominee: Lauren Richardson was nominated by multiple students. The following profile contains information from each of her nominations. Señora Richardson has changed people's lives forever. She is someone that isn't just a teacher, but a friend. For example, if a student invites her to one of their sporting events or concerts, she will always attend and be their biggest cheerleader. No matter what time of day or how far she has to travel, she will be on the sidelines for students. Overall, she sets them up for success!

Señora Richardson helps her students in any way possible, and she always tries her best for them. She will make up songs to help student remember verb charts, create memory tricks and videos for them to watch, find extra practice links, etc. She does so much to make sure students do their best in her class. Señora is also her students' biggest motivator. On tests, she will make sure students know she wants the best for them! She rewards them for hard work by giving her students candy. Even though the students get lots of candy, that's not what matters.

The candy could be super sweet, but the teacher that gave it to them is even sweeter! One of her nominators, who wishes to remain anonymous, states that they've never heard her say anything negative to anyone. Ever. She spreads happiness to everyone in her school with her constant smiles and laughter. In addition to teaching, Señora is the National Junior Honor Society advisor, a role in which she does an amazing job.

A teacher like Señora makes students excited to go to school. She is committed to making her classroom a comfortable atmosphere for all of her students. She goes above and beyond to ask how they feel about topics and what they need to enhance their understanding of a topic. Everyone knows they are all welcome in her classroom. She gives equal attention to all of her students and understands what is going on in their lives, both inside and outside of school. Overall, she is an amazing teacher who changes the lives of students and members of her community!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="richardsonl@masonohioschools.com"]

Jacob (Jay) Reutter

Position: Eighth Grade Science Teacher

School: Mason Middle School

School District: Mason City Schools

City, State: Mason, Ohio

About the Nominee: Jay Reutter was nominated by his principal, Tonya McCall. Mr. Reutter has been teaching science at Mason Middle School for many years. He always has the students' best interest at the forefront of any decisions he makes. Over the years, he has not only transformed into a great science teacher, but a great leader among his peers.

Mason Middle School underwent a huge transition from teaming to a more traditional middle school schedule. During this time, Mr. Reutter initiated a grassroots effort to identify concerns and develop a plan of action. This included surveying staff to better understand their needs, researching possible solutions and ultimately planning and implementing a school-wide House System.

Mr. Reutter recognized that in a building with over 1825+ students, there was a need to create an opportunity for staff and students to build relationships that fostered academic achievement and student leadership skills. He and his colleagues recognized that the middle school years are crucial to the development of students' social and emotional well-being, which can translate into stronger student achievement. He saw this as an opportunity for staff and students to participate in community service, develop leadership skills and promote positive academic and social behaviors. To get this initiative off the ground, Mr. Reutter established “house leaders” who met during the school year and in the summer to craft the initiative's framework. This included organizing the houses, the families within the houses, the staff assigned to each house and the kickoff events for both staff and students. Additionally, he engaged one of the district's community partners, The Mason Schools Foundation, by writing a grant to fund the proposed activities.

There are countless other examples of Mr. Reutter's leadership. One of his school's administrators showed him the article about the Pineapple Chart, a system that allows teachers to invite one another into their classrooms for informal observations. Within days, Mr. Reutter had already organized a Pineapple Chart on campus, purchased a whiteboard to display in the front office and implemented it with staff. He single-handedly made the Pineapple Chart happen at his school! He has also spent numerous plan periods visiting other teachers’ classes and encouraging other teachers to do the same.

Mr. Reutter is constantly encouraging professional growth as either a presenter or participant through the promotion of his district's learning series. He encourages staff to spend a few minutes of plan time observing someone else. He also encourages them to tweet something they learned using the hashtags #masonlearns and #MMSLearns.

When it was suggested that MMS students needed to have some direct support in order to encourage perseverance and grit within the student population, Mr. Reutter worked with the House leadership team to develop a school-wide activity with this focus in mind. He also organized a monthly after-school meeting with science teachers who were willing to try innovative practices involving technology within their classroom.

Mr. Reutter is a learner! More importantly, he takes what he has learned and shares it with staff to encourage others to increase their own knowledge and perspective. One of his most recent quests involves taking a deep dive into the world of personalized learning and innovator’s mindset. He is willing to take risks within the classroom to implement innovative practices (i.e. using a new gamification unit for teaching earthquakes and plate tectonics).

Mr. Reutter incorporated “Flex Fridays” in his classroom, giving him time to meet with students as needed while giving other students opportunities to enrich their learning with extensions or other activities, including passion projects. For many years, he has also served as a mentor in the MMS Mentoring Program in an effort to make connections with students in need.

Other areas of excellent performance include: -being identified as a Master Teacher -serving as MMS Science Fair Coordinator, MMS Google Coach and a Building Leadership Team member -receiving the district Innovation award -presenting at the MMS Cool Ideas Fair, a teacher-organized professional development idea exchange -introducing the concept of Ignite Talks as a means for professional development

One of his colleagues stated, “I have had the pleasure of teaching in the same department and grade with Mr. Reutter for 17 years. He is an innovative teacher and is always willing to try new things. Mr. Reutter is continuously implementing new tools to reach his students and engage his students. He is collaborative within our department, shares responsibility, and coaches teachers in executing new technology. Mr. Reutter...has motivated me as an educator to take risks and embrace changes.”

The bottom line is that Mr. Reutter by example, pushes the staff and students at MMS to be a better version of themselves!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="reutterj@masonohioschools.com"]

Laura Tonkin


Position: Eighth Grade Physical Science Teacher

School: Mason Middle School

School District:Mason City Schools

City, State: Mason, Ohio

About the Nominee: Laura Tonkin was nominated by her principal, Tonya McCall.

Ms. Tonkin has been teaching for 13 years, and every year is like a brand new year for her. She is continually looking for ways to modify her course to make it better for her students. Her willingness to learn about her students, their needs and their interests is what separates her from many other educators.

She takes a deep interest in the success of every student and uses her connections with them to deepen their learning experiences. Ms. Tonkin is willing to take risks for her students, mentor their learning and create incredible learning experiences unique to the interest of the individual student. She is a learner and a motivator who is not afraid to try new things, work through an issue and/ or search for a different design or solution. She is a visionary who takes risks, which motivates and empowers others to follow suit. Ms. Tonkin is a natural leader within Mason. She leads with grace and humility. It's never about her or what might make the situation easier, but about how she and her colleagues can make their school and district the best place for students. Some of the examples of her leadership over the last couple of years include:

• Co-leading a collaborative group of teachers who are interested in growing professionally. They get together to informally discuss topics of interest as they relate to students. • Piloting many efforts to move education forward within the district. For example, Ms. Tonkin worked with a colleague on a 3D cookie cutter challenge with her engineering and design students. She was in a unique position to help with this challenge, as she happens to be an accomplished baker with a cookie business. Ms. Tonkin was able to give students insight on the best types of designs that would work well in practice. • Designing lessons for stations at the 2016 Mason/Festo Innovation Day, which involved all of her first semester physical science students. • Taking on coaching responsibilities and mentoring new teachers as they moved into the sports. • Leading one of the houses within her school. Since there are over 1820 students at Mason Middle School, the school is divided into a House System which makes it feel smaller and include a more personalized touch. In addition, she has been a part of the planning team for the House System since its inception. This was a grassroots movement designed by the teachers and supported by the administration. As a House Leader, she meets regularly with the planning team to continually evaluate the program and plan the monthly schedule, as well as special events throughout the year. • Preparing and presenting professional development on a variety of topics around teaching and learning at High Aims, a consortium of public school districts and network of leaders who inspire students and one another to be engaged, high performing learners. She has also presented at the Mason Learning Series, a district professional development conference created to provide learning opportunities for staff, by staff. • Redesigning the Physical Science curriculum to incorporate a standards based grading framework, This year, she transformed it into a personalized learning experience, which was a mid-course adjustment after reading a book recommended to her by a colleague. • Mentoring a new Physical Science Teacher in the department this year. • Donating 500 hand-crafted cookies to the Mason Food Pantry.

Ms. Tonkin is often found supporting her students as a mentor. It is hard to say how many students she has helped through personal struggles, but she is a hero to all of them. She is not afraid to expose her vulnerabilities and admit she may not have the answers a student needs, but she is always more than willing to learn with them.

One of Ms. Tonkin's colleagues shared, “I have never worked with a teacher more committed to ensuring the success of all students. Her classroom is a beacon of hope for all students, regardless of their background. Students know that when they walk into her room, they will be cared for and they will be guided towards a better and brighter future.”

Karen Willmitch

Position: Third and Fifth Grade Intervention Specialist

School: Roxboro Elementary School

School District: Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District

City, State: Cleveland Heights, Ohio

About the Nominee: Karen Willmitch was nominated by her colleague, Kristi Glasier. Mrs. Willmitch and Ms. Glasier have known each other for a decade. This school year, they are working together in a co-teaching model for mathematics. During this time, Mrs. Willmitch has consistently been an impressive colleague who treats students and staff with respect. She is hard-working, eager to collaborate and recognize goodness and is committed to helping students progress academically, behaviorally and emotionally.

This year, Mrs. Willmitch has three students from Ms. Glasier's class who receive specific services from her. During her instruction, she builds a positive rapport with every member of her learning community. She is willing to help any student and provides positive and detailed feedback to the students in a timely manner. Mrs. Willmitch is a member of the TAP (Teacher-Administrator Partnership) committee, an elected position that works to maintain a positive, productive climate and culture in the school's learning environment.

Mrs. Willmitch is an organized, creative teacher who is well-liked by students, staff and families in her building. She is a positive force and LifeChanger in her community!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="k_willmitch@chuh.org"]