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Published: Friday, 5/4/2001

Top grads thank their classroom inspirations

Teachers are remembered for many reasons, from inspired class presentations to the tough assignments and the discipline they handed out.

Lucas County's top performing public high school graduates were to return their gratitude today, honoring the teachers who made the most significant contribution to their educational experience. The teachers were to be presented with plaques at the 12th annual “I Make a Difference Breakfast” for them at the Toledo Club, Madison Avenue and 14th Street, by the Lucas County educational service center.

Chang She, salutatorian at Sylvania Northview High School, said yesterday that Jonathan “Doc” Engel was his choice. The ninth-grade science teacher at Northview is approachable and always willing to help, he said.

“Doc is one of those teachers who is not afraid to be enthusiastic,” Mr. She said. “He isn't afraid to get on the table and be really excited about what he is doing. A big part of what is missing from schools is the lack of enthusiasm.” In the first weeks of Mr. Engel's class, the teacher made it clear to students he expected much more effort than what they gave in junior high.

“We didn't think we would have to work in his class and that turned out to be catastrophic,” Mr. She said.

Mr. She will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after graduation.

Michael Stout, a teacher at Starr Elementary, was to be honored by Jay Harrington, salutatorian at Clay High School who had Mr. Stout as his fifth grade teacher.

Mr. Stout's creativity, humor, and shameless use of props like a talking skeleton and a routine in which he accidentally set his desk on fire were memorable long after Mr. Harrington left the school. “I picked him because he was the one who made me learn,” Mr. Harrington said. “I think elementary teachers build the fundamentals for how you view future learning.”

Jeremy Cervenec, valedictorian at Rossford High School, selected Harry Wilcox, a French teacher.

“He kept me involved [while learning French],” Mr. Cervenec said. “He kept me interested. He created a sense of curiosity about a foreign language.”

Tom Baker, superintendent of the educational service center, said there is a common thread to what students say about the teachers they remember most. It's often an emotional moment when students give a brief talk about their teachers at the breakfast.

“Over the years, students continue to say [their teachers] have gone beyond the call of duty and were committed to the teaching profession,” he said. “Some said they were easier to talk to than their parents.”

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