Teacher Spotlight: Honoring Exceptional Northeast Ohio Educators

Teacher Spotlight: Honoring Exceptional Northeast Ohio Educators

- in 2019 Editions, Education, Magazine, May 2019
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There’s no disputing the fact that teachers can have a big impact on a child’s life. In March, we asked our readers and Facebook followers to nominate one of their child’s favorite teachers — educators who go above and beyond when it comes to their actions for their students, schools and communities. Here is what they had to say.

 

 

 

Lorena Fabian

Lorena Fabian
Second grade
East Elementary School,
Avon Local School District
— Nominated by Lauren Dagiasis

“My daughter has always struggled with confidence and the joy of learning; Fabian has completely changed that! She celebrates each child’s successes and values the differences that each child brings to the classroom. She encourages growing a child as a person and not just as a student. My daughter is now confident that she can accomplish anything and loves going to school each day! Fabian also values the role that the parents play in the success of the child and welcomes input and works together as a team to do the best for the child. We have been blessed to have her in our child’s life this year!”

 

Kim Elliott

Kim Elliott
Second grade
Ritzman Community Learning Center, Akron Public Schools
— Nominated by Kate Grady

“Not only does she work hard to make sure that the children are advancing academically, she has a big heart and cares about all of her students. I have seen this not only with my own son, but with the other kids in her class. My son talked to me about a little boy in their class who was having a hard time. I spoke to her about what my son told me, and it was clear that she cared deeply about his welfare. Throughout the year, my son told me things that confirmed she was going out of her way to emotionally support the boy. It is a hard job she has, but she still tries to meet each child’s individual needs and let them know they are cared for.”

 

Rose Smoral

Rose Smoral
Second grade
Ellsworth Hill Elementary,
Hudson City Schools
— Nominated by Danielle Coombs

“I can’t imagine a better teacher than Smoral. She has been an absolute treasure for my daughters, both in terms of their academic growth and personal development. There is strong evidence that girls’ self-confidence starts to plummet around age 8. The skills they learn in Smoral’s class — including integrity, grit, and resilience — are invaluable as our children enter adolescence. I am so grateful she is in our world and that both of my daughters got to benefit from her kind heart and expert instruction. She is an extraordinarily gifted teacher.”

 

Brian Force

Brian Force
Sixth grade math
Harmon Middle School,
Aurora City School District
— Nominated by Gabrielle Greenberg

“I have always struggled in math my entire school career. This year has been a turnaround for me. Force teaches in a way that I’m beginning to understand math better. I’m slightly starting to even like math (shhhh don’t tell him that). He encourages children to try no matter if they fail or not. ‘Mistakes are learning,’ he says. If you raise your hand and try a problem, he will give you a ‘hot shot ticket.’ At the end of the day, you are able to shoot a basket and win candy. I love the way he takes time out to observe how you learn and adapts to each individual student. Because of that, I’m starting to understand and not be so afraid to raise my hand or teach my classmates how I got the answer. I think my most favorite part of his teaching is how excited he gets when a student gets a hard math question. He will dance and sing. Force also thinks outside the box with learning; he gets you outside the classroom and lets you explore math around our school. It makes you look at lettering on the floor and our lockers in a mathematical way.”

 

Patti Pfriem

Patti Pfriem
Preschool
Ss. Robert and William
Catholic School, Euclid
— Nominated by Angela Condon

“We are beyond grateful to have Pfriem as our son’s very first teacher! She is kind, caring and clearly highly experienced at meeting children at their level and working to cultivate their skills. She appreciates each child for exactly who he or she is. Watching her with our son and the rest of the class, it is clear that she genuinely cares about each and every child she works with. She brings a sense of calm and comfort to her classroom, and to us as parents because we know our son is being treated with respect and love at school as well as at home. Sending our only little one to preschool was an emotional journey, but we feel she has made it a wonderful experience and given our son an amazing foundation for his school career.”

 

Marcia Martino

Marcia Martino
Fifth grade, intervention specialist, tutor
Orchard Hill Intermediate School, North Canton City Schools
— Nominated by Mary Lynne Zahler

“Martino is an absolute gem! Our 11-year-old daughter has severe dyslexia and has struggled in school since first grade. Martino has been her private tutor for the last few years and she actually makes our daughter WANT to read and LIKE learning. She says she wishes all her teachers would teach like Martino because she explains things so simply and easily, and also helps our daughter have the confidence she needs to keep trying progressively more difficult problems, books, writing and other academic work. Martino is kind, sweet and empathetic, and she also has a great understanding of students with learning disabilities and how to reach them where they are. Martino goes way above and beyond in her teaching and in her personal life, as well.”

 

Jennifer Wicks

Jennifer Wicks
Fourth grade
Findley Community Learning Center, Akron Public Schools
— Nominated by Jill Sweitzer

“Wicks works to secure food, furniture and clothing for Findlay CLC families in need. Meeting these basic needs impacts the whole family. Students feel safe and secure in her classroom. Parents feel comfortable and are willing to communicate their concerns to her, and together they work toward a solution. As Wicks invests herself in the community, her desire and drive is to selflessly nurture new immigrants to the United States who speak no English, possibly never having attended school, to make sure that they are welcomed. Within 2-3 years the students are reading, writing and speaking fluently (and oftentimes reading at or above grade level). The impact is felt in the school, by the families and the Akron community. Overcoming the language barrier creates a foundation for fostering interconnection and building common ground. It brings people together to make a difference in leaving the world a better place than how they found it.”

 

Emily Walter

Emily Walter
First grade
Evamere Elementary,
Hudson City Schools
— Nominated by Megan Dzurec

“Walter is a dynamic, caring, creative and soul-feeding teacher. Our daughter has learned so much from her and we, too, have benefited as parents. Walter finds solutions to any problems, and works with students and parents to create the best learning environment. She seeks out the gifts in each of her students, fosters their strengths and embraces their growth areas. If we could, we’d keep Walter forever! She embodies the best qualities of any teacher we’ve ever known, and sets a standard for perfecting the vocation of teaching.”

 

Paula Ritzler

Paula Ritzler
Kindergarten
St. Raphael School, Bay Village
— Nominated by Jennifer Anders

“Ritzler is an ingenious kindergarten teacher. The combination of her kind heart and no-nonsense attitude guides her students to love learning. Rather than punish bad behavior, she teaches proper school etiquette through weekly team games and positive reinforcement, which makes behaving — like listening and sitting — enjoyable for the children. Ritzler shares her personal experiences with the students’ families to encourage generosity and philanthropy to help others. She is always there to give children positive reinforcement when they are feeling frustrated that they can’t catch onto a new concept.”

 

Diane Poretsky

Diane Poretsky
First grade
Normandy Elementary School, Bay Village City Schools
— Nominated by Mei-Lin Valdepenas

“We love Poretsky because of her efforts to extend education beyond the school. She strongly advocates family support and challenges both our children and us in positive, creative ways. Prior to the start of the school, her welcome kit was so inviting and helped warm (my daughter) up to the thought of big school. It also came with a tiny book made by her former students sharing what they loved about her. We also love the creative and very thoughtful concepts applied to the class books they get to bring home.

Our most favorite of all is the First and Fourth Key Chain company initiative, where she had first- and fourth-graders partner to make key chains and learn how a company operates from production to marketing to sales. They sold to fellow students in support of a cause. The values they learned and sense of accomplishment was invaluable and a true experience to cherish.”

 

Marie Gresko

Marie Gresko
First grade
St. Bernadette, Westlake
— Nominated by Karen Szytec

“Gresko is so very kind and giving to all of her students. She takes extra time every day to make each child feel special in their own way. She does fun activities and allows children to earn prizes from the prize box as an extra special treat. Around the holidays, she likes to include the children’s families to make it memorable. This past Christmas season, parents were able to schedule time to come and read a holiday book and provide the kids with a special treat. She started at St. Bernadette as a preschool teacher and after her first year, became a first grade teacher. My son built a beautiful relationship with her in his preschool years and is now blessed to have her as his first grade teacher. It’s something he tells me that he will never ever forget. All of her children love her so very much for the love and generosity she gives them each and every day.”

 

Jennifer Mollison

Jennifer Mollison
Fifth grade
Emerson Elementary,
Lakewood City School District
— Nominated by Amanda Bernad

“My son was very upset about going to school in his new glasses, so Mrs. Mollison took a picture of all the kids in class that wear glasses (including herself) and made the ‘cool kids glasses club’ just to make my son feel less embarrassed and awesome about his new glasses. She has also nurtured his love of math and learning! Amazing and compassionate, she is someone we are blessed to have in our son’s life.”

About the author

Denise Koeth is managing/digital editor of Northeast Ohio Parent. She writes for and assists with production of the print magazine, as well as manages digital content on the NortheastOhioParent.com website and oversees the brand’s social media activity. Denise grew up in Northeast Ohio and she and her husband are currently raising their two boys here.

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