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By: Jonathan Juravich
One year ago, a proposal was on the table to transform the Ohio Teacher of the Year program from a one-year experience to a two-year commitment. The first year would be one of recognition and learning, followed by a year of service to the state as the Ohio teacher-in-residence. I was hesitant. What would life outside of my classroom look like? Would I be bored, spinning around in a chair all day? Was I even capable of living up to everyone’s expectations? Twelve months later, I am wrapping up my time piloting this program and dizzied from a year of growth and inspiration.
I was having lunch with a group of teachers this spring, and one of them asked me what I actually do in this role. I answered saying, “I focus on teacher voice, teacher leadership and teacher recognition.” She then said that this was all well and good but wanted to know more details. What was it that I was actually doing?
During this past year, I have toured the state, meeting with teachers, administrators and students while learning about their schools, aspirations and communities. Sometimes I offered professional development for teachers, spoke at conferences, led whole-school student assemblies or provided hot chocolate to teachers at staff meetings. Then, I brought all of these experiences and the information I learned from my visits back to the Department to help provide Department staff with insight from the field and context for decision-making.
In April, I testified to the Primary and Secondary Education Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives. One of the members of this committee asked me to reflect on what it is that I heard from teachers when I visited schools. I noted how inspired I was by Ohio’s educators, their professionalism and their heart. These teachers spoke of their admiration for their students and the strength of their colleagues down the hall that, in their words, I “just had to stop in and see before leaving.”
This year, I was motivated by great teachers like the enthusiastic Chris Basich in Riverside Local Schools; by the heart of third grade teacher Devery Scott from Whitehall City Schools; Chris Williams and the remarkable staff at Colerain Elementary School in Columbus; the thought-provoking conversations with Cheshire Elementary’s Mikela Thomas; and the creativity of Terry Stewart at the Ohio School for the Deaf. Meeting these teachers and countless more, hearing their stories, their hopes for their students and the triumphs they had just recently witnessed have changed who I am as an educator.
In one of my first meetings at the Department, I was told there was interest in an additional teacher recognition program. Through hard work and lots of collaboration, the TORCH (Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart) recognition was rolled out this winter. In its inaugural year, TORCH recognizes teachers for their engagement with the community and advancement of educational equity. Five honorees from across the state were selected and recognized during surprise events this spring. I am honored to have met Tequila Pennington-Calwise of Cleveland Metro Schools, Leila Kubesch from Norwood City Schools, Sylvania’s Tami Blue, Sarah Thornburg of Columbus City Schools, and Alicia Spears from the Tri-State STEM+M Early College High School. These teachers strive to teach the whole child and every child. I, for one, cannot wait to hear about the teachers that will be recognized through this program in the future, for their service-centered lives.
Honestly, what I am most excited about is the future of the teacher-in-residence program and how it will continue even when I am gone. I am thrilled to see how future Ohio Teachers of the Year will put their own unique spin on engaging educators to use their voices, advance leadership, and recognize the goodness in one another. When I am back in my art room at Liberty Tree Elementary School this fall, I know that Mona Al-Hayani, the 2019 Ohio Teacher of the Year, will be stepping into this role, rebranded as the Ohio Teacher Fellowship. She will bring professionalism and passion to her work, advocating for all of Ohio’s teachers and students.
On my last full day as the Ohio teacher-in-residence, the Department hosted the first-ever Teacher Leadership Summit at The Ohio State University. Two hundred teacher leaders and administrators came from across the state to join Department staff and share in a day of learning and inspiration that had taken most of the year to plan. Many of the amazing people I met over the past few months were there, making connections with one another and filling the room with energy. As the morning opened, I stood on the stage looking out at faces I had not known a year prior and the table of staff members from my own school. These colleagues, both the familiar and the new, had become a part of the journey. I stood there at the summit realizing that this year-long adventure, this metaphoric summit, was only the beginning for me…for all of us. There are new mountains and challenges to take on in the quest to advance teacher voices, leadership and recognition. How incredibly grateful I am for the opportunity to have represented the amazing educators of Ohio in this work as the teacher-in-residence.
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By: Jonathan Juravich
Editor’s Note: During the Ohio Teacher of the Year selection process, outstanding educators from each of the 11 State Board of Education districts are chosen to be District Teachers of the Year. Finalists for the Ohio Teacher of the Year will be selected from these 11 honorees. Ultimately, only one will become the Ohio Teacher of the Year. This person is then in the running to be the National Teacher of the Year.
As the nomination window for the 2020 Ohio Teacher of the Year opens, 2018 Teacher of the Year Jonathan Juravich invited Bre Sambuchino, a 2019 Ohio Teacher of the Year finalist, to help him write this blog. Below, Jonathan and Bre share how their respective recognitions have impacted their careers and lives. They also invite you to nominate an outstanding teacher for this honor.
Jonathan Juravich, 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year
To be named the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year set into motion the most remarkable year and a half of my life. To be honest, I will never be the same again. I have realized that I have become a stronger version of myself. I am confident in sharing my perspective and my experiences in the classroom. I have learned what true leadership can be and how sometimes sitting back and actually listening to someone else can mean so much more than being the loudest voice in the room. I have learned that Ohio Teacher of the Year is so much more than a title, it is an opportunity, a responsibility and full of possibilities.
Right before the announcement was made of my recognition, I was on a conference call with previous honorees. One of them said, “You are going to join the most incredible professional network of people when you meet the other state teachers of the year.” I remember rolling my eyes. Really? Another network of educators? I think I’m okay. And then I met the 54 other state Teachers of the Year and realized this was so much more than a professional network. This group of educators has so many things in common with me — they process the same struggles, challenge me to think bigger, are there when I need someone to listen and have opened my eyes to gratitude. They have become my close friends.
Together, we have had once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We explored Google’s campus, shared our experiences with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, toured the White House, attended Space Camp and stood on the field during the national anthem at the National Championship football game. And the adventures continue. Then, there was that day I stood on the TED stage in New York City, telling the stories of my students, my daughter and my grandmother to fellow teachers in the audience.
Throughout these experiences, I was very cognizant that I was representing Ohio and the excellent educators of our state. I knew when I saw something amazing or experienced excellent professional learning, it was my job to share it with the people who needed it. And now, piloting the teacher-in-residence position at the Ohio Department of Education, I have had the opportunity to meet and celebrate some of the most remarkable educators across our state.
This experience has led me to dream big and believe in possibilities — possibilities for my students, for education and for myself.
Bre Sambuchino, 2019 Ohio Teacher of the Year Finalist
I remember the day when my superintendent walked in my class with flowers in hand. I was teaching Education Principles. This is a class for seniors who wish to become teachers, and they are absolutely delightful — a joy, really. She came in and explained she had just submitted my name for Ohio Teacher of the Year. The students in the class were enthralled. They wanted to know everything and asked, “So, what is next?” “When will she know?” “How can we help?” I remember thinking they were being so sweet, but I was pretty sure my road was going to end that day because I knew of all the amazing teachers that were in my building — let alone the state of Ohio.
They asked for a group hug. Yes, a hug. Senior students were hugging it out. I thought, “Maybe I did teach them something.” As the instructor for our school’s Teaching Professions Academy, my motto is to do all things with grace and love.
The Ohio Teacher of the Year process continued and was challenging at times. I was juggling a lot of life changes at the same time as I was preparing for my presentation and writing my essays. However, the process gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life and, for that, I am grateful. When all the essays were written, I realized I like building and creating things. Almost everything I had been recognized for had been for creating something that had not existed previously.
The process gave me confidence, which gave me grace. It gave me the opportunity to say, “What is next?” Since then, I have volunteered with the St. Vincent de Paul Retrofittings Committee, and I recently met with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society about becoming involved in their work. I love working on teams, building things and creating anew.
In the classroom, the Ohio Teacher of the Year process has solidified the passion I have for my vocation. I know I am meant to be an educator. I love what I do and am grateful for each day. I love modeling grace and love, and I know I am where I am meant to be.
Our challenge is for school administrators, community members, parents, students and fellow educators to nominate an outstanding teacher for the Ohio Teacher of the Year program. Excellent teachers open doors to opportunities for students. In turn, excellent teachers deserve to have doors opened for them.
Jonathan Juravich is the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, was a finalist for National Teacher of the Year and serves as the Ohio Department of Education’s teacher-in-residence.
<Bre Sambuchino is the State Board District 4 Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for 2019 Ohio Teacher of the Year. She teaches in Loveland City School District.
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By: Jonathan Juravich
In the field of education, teachers are a part of an incredible relay — a passing of the torch. Knowledge and guidance are passed from teacher to student, from teacher to teacher, and from teacher to the community. Over the course of my first 14 years in education, I have been a part of this relay with some exceptional teachers. These teachers do remarkable things for their students and communities.
Erin Budic is one of those inspiring educators. This third grade teacher at Liberty Tree Elementary School in Powell was affected by a student’s illness. She organized a school-sponsored American Red Cross blood drive to benefit other patients. Many years and many blood drives later, Erin has helped the school and the American Red Cross collect 1,056 units of blood.
And, in the past year as the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year and the Ohio Department of Education teacher-in-residence, I have had the pleasure of meeting teachers from all corners of the state of Ohio who astound me with their heart for the community. David Kaser teaches in Barberton City School District. In his high school STEM program, students design and utilize a 3D printer to create prosthetic hands to be donated to individuals across the globe. David’s students know how to utilize their learning to impact others.
Teachers know their work extends beyond the curriculum or their specific areas of instruction. They know that before students can meet academic goals, they must feel seen, valued and safe. For these reasons, I am incredibly excited about the inaugural year of the Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart (TORCH) recognition.
Administrators, fellow educators, community members, parents and students can nominate teachers whose dedication to social justice and their communities makes them stand out in the most inspiring ways. Five Ohio teachers will be selected for the TORCH recognition and will be honored in a surprise reveal later this school year.
Please consider nominating a teacher who truly models a life of compassion, integrity, honor, and respect by visiting the TORCH website. Nominations are due Jan. 31, 2019. Together, let’s celebrate those educators who are making an immeasurable impact on their students, schools, communities and our future.
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By: Jonathan Juravich
A week after I was named the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, I received a note from an administrator in another part of the state asking if I really thought I “was the best teacher in Ohio.” I was taken aback by this question — the answer clearly is no. I am in no way the best teacher in Ohio or even at my school. But I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to advocate for and represent teachers from all corners of our state. And over the past year, I have had the opportunity to meet remarkable, inspiring teachers who are nothing short of superheroes.
My 5-year-old came home from her first week of kindergarten in Columbus City Schools proclaiming, “Mrs. Coneglio is a superhero without a cape.” Within those first few days with her teacher, she realized something very important — this teacher did remarkable things for her and the rest of her classmates. Mrs. Coneglio was not flashy with a sparkling uniform and a flowing cape. She did not have a mask concealing her identity. Instead, she was an everyday person with the extraordinary ability to build connections and bring her students into a state of awe.
During this season of thanks, I want to take the opportunity to thank the remarkable teachers across Ohio who give of themselves every day for their students and communities. These teachers believe in the power of their students as individuals. And for that, I am truly grateful.
I am thankful for teachers like Veronica Cotton, a third-grade teacher at John P. Parker Elementary in Cincinnati Public Schools, who welcomed me into her classroom with open arms. I watched her validate and then integrate her students’ unique experiences into their learning during Language Arts and Science. Thank you, Veronica, for reminding me, and all of us, that our students’ individual contexts fundamentally influence their learning.
Thank you, Dillon Sedar, art teacher at Munroe Elementary with Tallmadge City Schools. His students bring in works of art they create at home to trade with him. He proudly takes their masterpieces and gives them a piece of his own artwork. This connection validates their role as individual artists. Thank you, Dillon, for challenging and valuing your students’ individual voices and creative spirits.
I am grateful for the infectious positivity spread by Jen Savage, a teacher of the deaf at Windermere Elementary in Upper Arlington. In small, purposeful ways, she works tirelessly to make sure her students and their families are taken care of and well represented. Thank you, Jen, for all you do to make learning accessible to all students.
Thanks, Arthur Lard. Arthur is a business teacher at Portsmouth High School. He teaches financial literacy, educating his students about the economic risks that could profoundly impact their lives. He encourages them to be patient and take time to find their own answers instead of relying on teacher-driven decisions and solutions. Thank you, Arthur, for empowering your students as they consider their futures.
Many thanks to Bre Sambuchino of Loveland High School. Bre models selflessness for her students through community service-oriented instruction. The Day of Service she organizes for her high school students gets them into the community to make a very real difference for others. Students attach notes of love and affirmation they have written to coats they donate to a local center. Thank you, Bre, for inspiring the future leaders, teachers and citizens of our world with kindness and empathy.
To this small handful of educators and the countless others across Ohio, I say, thank you. Thank you for your leadership, your voice and your dedication to your students…our future. Though you might not wear a cape to school each day, know that those young eyes looking back at you see you in a theatrical way. They envision you in a stance of strength and power, with the wind in your hair and lights shining behind you. To those students. Your students. YOU are a superhero.
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By: Jonathan Juravich
My 5-year-old daughter loves routines. And bedtime is when routines reign supreme. There is the bath, new pajamas, brushing teeth, talking about our favorite parts of the day, two books, two songs and lights out. Every night, this same order of events leads her to know that regardless of whether the sun is still up or not, it is time for bed.
There are two pieces of this routine that are my favorite. The stories. As my daughter tells me about her favorite part of the day, I hear about her friends, their preschool hijinks, the kindness of teachers or the harrowing adventures on the playground. Sometimes she tells me that eating dinner as a family was her favorite moment or how her baby brother gave her the stink eye and she can’t stop laughing about it. Regardless, Josie uses descriptive language as she recounts the details to make me feel included.
And then, I read to her from books. Since her birth, I have delighted in reading her my favorites — “Where the Wild Things Are,” “The Wizard of Oz” and all things written by Mo Willems. Through these books and many others, I can open her world up to adventure, imagination, possibilities and life. Her head resting on my shoulder — she hangs on each word.
Why do we love stories so much? They engage us, they challenge us, they ignite thinking and dreaming. They make us feel included and open our eyes to new experiences and ways of seeing. Stories are important.
As the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, I took part in a formal induction with the other incredible state teachers of the year. Time and time again, we were challenged to tell our stories. As educators, we all have them.
Stories that are hilarious, teachers dressed in sumo suits rolling across the gym floor after their students met a fundraising goal.
Stories that are heartbreaking, a friendship bracelet shared with me from a student with pediatric cancer who said, “We will be best friends forever, as long as that is.”
And stories that are downright inspirational, the student with autism who found her voice through cartoon illustrations thanks to the support of her teachers who saw her as an individual.
Stories are meant to be shared. To tell our families, our circle of friends, the community, lawmakers and other educators about the important work we do every day. It is one thing to share a funny story, but what about the why? What are you trying to highlight, advocate for or change? Through storytelling, we advocate for our profession and for one another. See, stories make things personal. It is one thing to share data, numbers, pie charts…but narratives about the successes of real-life students and educators are truly powerful.
It might mean making reflection and journaling a part of your nightly routine, so you don’t forget the stories of the day. Or taking a moment to sit and gather a repertoire of narratives that you want to make sure you share with others. Take time to think about those students who have made a direct impact on you, those teachers who have inspired you to be the educator you are today, those pieces of personal history that brought you to the field. Write them down, think them through, internalize the important facts, characters and resulting outcomes.
For this school year, I am stepping away from my classroom to work as a teacher-in-residence at the Ohio Department of Education. During this time, I will be sure to share the stories of the exceptional educators and students the Department’s work influences. I look forward to connecting with teachers throughout the state and sharing our unique stories.
We all need to take a moment to stop, reflect and then share. Because these stories, these pivotal moments, should remind us why we joined this remarkable field of education.
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Last Modified: 5/17/2019 3:20:37 PM