PIQUA — Representatives from Miami County high schools and the Upper Valley Career Center came together Monday evening to allow local valedictorians and salutatorians to honor the teachers who made an impact on them. The Miami County Educational Service Center hosted the event at Edison Community College.
“This is one of my favorite events because if you’re interested in excellence, this room is filled with excellence,” Tom Dunn, superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center, said.
A reoccurring theme throughout the evening was that the teachers often went above and beyond the call of their profession, caring not only about their students’ education but their students’ lives and strength of character as well.
“No one achieves success on their own,” Dunn said, commending the educators and administrators along with the students’ family members for being committed to the students and their success. “It’s through your support that they’ve been able to achieve what they have.”
“This is certainly a notable recognition for everyone involved,” Piqua High School Valedictorian Timothy Wade Wenrick said. Wenrick, who was born and raised in Piqua, took part in the student advisory committee, marching band, show choir, and more. Wenrick also has a 5.08 GPA and plans to pursue a career as a professional guitarist.
Wenrick honored high school math teacher Brandon Lightle for stepping up to the plate and taking over another math class during the middle of the school year.
“He started teaching two calculus classes in one period,” Wenrick said.
Wenrick also commended Lightle for his “commitment to students and courses material.”
Piqua High School Salutatorian Sierra Miller honored teacher Heath Butler. “He’s literally taught me so many life lessons, and I can’t thank him enough,” Miller said.
Miller said that Butler’s life lessons and motivational Fridays taught her about the importance of character and treating each other with respect. “It’s really impacted me throughout this whole school year,” Miller said. “He’s just taught me that we’re not defined by a test score.”
Miller expects that Butler will go on to influence and touch the lives of many other students. “I know how big of an impact he’s had on me,” she said.
Miller took part in National Honor Society (NHS), concert choir, and more. She has also participated in Big Brothers and Big Sisters, soccer, travel league softball teams, and more. Miller is graduating with a 4.97 GPA and will be attending Ohio University to major in pre-medical laboratory science with a focus on pharmaceuticals.
Bradford High School Co-Valedictorian Andrew Patty honored teacher Rocco Latino, commending him for his “witty comments and constant positive attitude.”
Patty played football for four years for Bradford, among other activities. He has a 4.4 GPA and will be attending Miami University.
Bradford High School Co-Valedictorian Kelly Moore honored teacher Dr. Angela Wendel.
“Doc (Wendel) has been one of the most influential teachers,” Moore said, adding that she has taken six classes with Wendel in four years. “She knows how to make a difficult topic intriguing and engaging.”
Moore is also graduating with a 4.4 GPA. She took part in basketball, softball, track and field, cheerleading, NHS, and more. She will be attending Ohio State University.
Bradford High School Salutatorian Mackenzie Weldy also commended Wendel.
“Doc (Wendel) has transformed … my passion for science into an overflowing love for everything around me,” Weldy said. “I have learned so much within the walls of her classroom.”
Weldy added that Wendel went “above and beyond the requirements of a teacher” and also taught Weldy “to never doubt the things that seem impossible.”
Weldy took part in volleyball, track, NHS, and more. She will be attending the University of Findlay after a service trip to and veterinary course in Thailand.
“The teachers here are pretty special,” Covington High School Principal Josh Long said, commending the teachers present for connecting with students.
“What does a fish do? Nada,” Covington High School Valedictorian Haylee Pence said, explaining the Spanish joke she learned from her teacher Brian Bohlander, as it means a fish is either doing “nothing” or “swimming.” Pence honored Bohlander during the ceremony, saying that Bohlander inspired her to continue studying Spanish in college.
“The most important thing he taught me is to not be afraid of who I am or what I like,” Pence said, citing her love of “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.”
At the high school, Pence took part in concert band, marching band, drama club, NHS, and more. She also received numerous awards. She will be attending Wright State University in the fall to study science.
“She has helped me to grow as a person,” Covington High School Salutatorian Bernard Kuether said about teacher Jessica Helsinger, saying that his future could have been on a different path without Helsinger’s support in the high school’s FFA program. “She pushed me to be a leader.”
Kuether took part in football, basketball, baseball, and the FFA program at Covington High School. He also received academic awards and will be attending Ohio State University.
“Mrs. Yahle has shared her wisdom (and) experiences,” Upper Valley Career Center Top Scholar Madeline Ponchillia said about teacher Tami Yahle. Ponchillia commended Yahle’s knowledge and humor. “She is able to share in an understandable manner … I am extremely proud to have been your student.”
Ponchillia will be attending the Kettering College of Medical Arts to pursue a career in nursing.
Reach Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall