By Mindy Ragan Wood
Yukon teachers shed tears of joy as a community came together to celebrate their hard work and ingenuity in their classrooms last Thursday night.
The Yukon Public Schools Foundation for Excellence awards provided nearly $23,000 in grants to more than 30 teachers and bestowed awards to recognize top educators.
The funds are raised through donations in the community and from teachers who donate approximately $15,000 every year out of their paychecks for the foundation.
Charissa Spruill of Skyview Elementary won a grant to purchase puppets for singing activities.
“I’m just so grateful,” she said. “There’s not a budget for music in the school so we fund raise and write grants. We can’t buy instruments without it.”
Spruill received $650 and teaches approximately 600 students from pre-k to third grade.
Emily White teaches at Skyview Elementary where a grant she received will help fund Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) work in computer science.
“They’ll be doing computer program coding with OSMO, which is a hands-on learning system that teaches coding using manipulatives. I appreciate what Yukon does and how much they give back to us.”
Several memorial grants were given in remembrance of former teachers, board of education members and patrons of the district who believed in the development of programs and classroom improvements for Yukon students.
Former Yukon schools superintendent Terry Dean presented the Dixie Ritz award to Megan Simpson of Skyview Elementary. He recalled the constant service Ritz provided to the district as a long-time board of education member.
“First woman on the school board,” Dean began. “Her philosophy of education was pretty simple. It was about students and teachers and that’s it. Everything she did, every decision she made, that was her filter. If you go back to your buildings, you’ll probably see her name on most of the walls because of all the work done that she was part of…I wish more people could have had the opportunity to know this fine lady.”
Dean remembered that Ritz hired him for four positions, from teacher and coach to principal and superintendent of the district. He remembered her watchful eyes at school events and the respect she humbly commanded with humor.
Ritz was in each school for almost any event. He told a story about an event he almost didn’t attend until he considered that Ritz might be there to check up on him.
“I told her about that story about how I thought she would be checking on me …and she said, ‘what makes you think I wasn’t checking on you?” he said with a laugh.
Dean described Ritz as a tireless and selfless servant of the district, championing volunteerism, building renovations, expansions and literacy. She spearheaded the breakfast program for hungry students.
“She was the most selfless lady you’d probably ever meet,” he said. “She believed in ‘service before self,’” she said. “She was the helping hands before we ever had helping hands. She started the libraries at Shedeck, Myers and Central. At one time she was named Yukon Woman of the Year in the district. As I said, the most selfless woman I’d ever met…teachers, students.”
Pam Shelton, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, presented the J.W. Loudermilk award to Chase Langley, physical education teacher at Shedeck Elementary.
Loudermilk, a coach and driver’s education instructor, was a teacher who made a difference to Shelton when she was in school. She recalled an incident in the driver’s ed class that drew laughter from the banquet crowd.
“I was backing up (in a simulation) and I noticed the speedometer was not working,” Shelton said. “I raised my hand and told him Mr. Loudermilk it wasn’t working. He politely said, ‘Ms. Bennet. When your car is in reverse, the speedometer doesn’t work.’ He didn’t laugh. He didn’t smile. He just politely stated that. That’s the way he was. Polite, kind, caring….that never changed. Yukon was not only blessed to have him, but lucky.”
Several teachers received grants, many from the same schools. From Central Elementary, Emilee Crim, Ryan Burner and Jessica Adams.
Ranchwood Elementary teachers who received grants were Jill King, Elizabeth Wilson, Kandy Myers and Shelley Erdman. Three teachers from Shedeck received grants including Ashley Rudkin, Langley and Jennie Wilmes.
Lakeview’s Lori Gossen and Kassandra Ford received grants as did Wendy Green from Myers.
Ten teachers from Skyview were awarded grants. They are Spruill, Megan Simpson, Aaron Rios, Erica Blystone, Amy Walters, Emily White, Nicole Gifford, Julie Lee, Crystal Butcher and Sara Newton.
Two teachers from Yukon High School were recipients, Samantha Manke and Brian Payne. Yukon Middle School educators Jeanette Bechtol and Shannon Truelove also received grants.
Memorial grant winners included White, of Skyview in memory of Lendell Ellis, Kim Garner of Yukon High School in memory of Carrie Attalla, Spruill of Skyview in memory of Kathryn Wright, Bechtol in memory of Jim Synder, Manke of Yukon High School in memory of Janice McComas, and Green of Myers Elementary in memory of Jane Shedeck.