2019 TORCH honorees recognized


The state’s Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart (TORCH) recognition program has announced five honorees in its first year. The program commends teachers who model strong character and heart for their students, colleagues and communities. Here are the teachers recognized:
Alicia Spears, a science teacher at STEM+M Early College High School in South Point. Alicia was surprised on April 11 at an International Dinner Fundraiser held by the school. She encourages her students to strive for greatness and give back to the Appalachian region they call home, hoping they will stay to help improve the economy and quality of life.
Sarah Thornburg, a social studies teacher at Columbus Alternative High School. Sarah encourages her students to understand the historical context for civic engagement. She helped establish Youth at the Booth, a program that gives Franklin County high school seniors a chance to work at voting polls. Sarah was recognized at the Columbus Alternative High School senior breakfast on May 1 with new Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon attending.
Tami Blue, a multimedia arts teacher at Sylvania Northview High School. Tami was surprised at a schoolwide student awards event on May 2. She works actively to provide safe, inclusive environments for all students at the high school. As the student council advisor, she supports efforts to plan events that all students can participate in to give back to the local community. Tami has worked alongside other educators, offering trainings on social issues that affect Northview students.
Leila Kubesch, an English language learner teacher at Norwood Middle School. Leila’s desire to elevate her students’ voices led to the creation of a youth-hosted television talk show connecting them with adult community leaders and experts from various fields. Her dedication to youth experiencing poverty and homelessness prompted her advocacy for children who have aged out of foster care and are at risk of becoming homeless. Leila was recognized at a Norwood City Schools Board meeting on May 7.
Tequila Pennington-Calwise, a third-grade teacher at Euclid Park Elementary in Cleveland. Tequila saw a need in her school and community to empower girls and young women and, in 2006, established the Lady Bound program, which focuses on building awareness, strength and pride. Tequila was surprised with her recognition on May 22 at a Scholars’ Evening – one that Tequila initiated to recognize students for their scholarship and character.
TORCH nominations came from students, parents, administrators, community members and fellow teachers across the state, and a committee selected recipients. Each teacher was recognized at a school event by Ohio Department of Education staff members and the Department’s Ohio Teacher in Residence Jonathan Juravich.
For more information about the TORCH Recognition program, visit the Department’s website.