SIDNEY — Soon after the death of longtime Piqua businessman Stanley Harrison, owner and operator of Barclay’s Clothing, his family wanted to establish a scholarship in his name to benefit students at Lehman Catholic High School.
After looking at the number of scholarships already available to high school graduates, Harrison’s wife Sammye and son, Bert, decided to recognize the often overlooked educators who make it possible for so many students to win those scholarships to college. They were convinced that the reason for student success at Lehman was its dedicated staff, so the Stanley Harrison Family Distinguished Teaching Award was established in 2007.
The 2015 “Distinguished Teaching” recipient is Leah Bertke, a faculty member in the science department who teaches chemistry, integrated science and AP biology. Bertke is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where she received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s degree in education. She also holds a master’s in chemistry education from Loyola University in Chicago. This is her 12th year in education and second year at Lehman.
Bertke spent three years teaching at St. John the Evangelist in Plaquemine, La., and seven years at Gordon Tech Catholic High School in Chicago. Originally from Maria Stein and a graduate of Marion Local High School, Bertke was ready to return to the area and her family. An opening in the science department at Lehman in 2014 gave her the opportunity to do that and continue teaching in a Catholic school.
Besides her classes during the school day, Bertke moderates the Interact Club and helps with Science Olympiad. She is also part of the adult team for the Kairos retreat and organized a student mission trip to Appalachia last summer.
“I love teaching at Lehman because there is such strong community and parental support,” said Bertke. “This helps with discipline of course, but also with exploring new things. I had so many parents who either went on the mission trip or supported it financially so that all the students who wanted to go were able to do so.”
“Leah has been a wonderful addition to our Lehman faculty,” said Lehman Principal/CEO Denise Stauffer. “She is not only a strong educator but a very faith-filled individual. In the short amount of time that she has been at Lehman, she has become very involved with our Science department and several extra-curricular activities, in addition to organizing the mission trip. She is a wonderful role model for her students and peers, and is very deserving of this award!”
Bertke joins an impressive list of educators. The first eight recipients of the Award were Sister Ginny Scherer, current science department chair; George Grampp, retired social studies department chair; Barb Saluke, former English department chair and current senior counselor; Melissa Safreed, current math and psychology teacher; Pam Wendel, current math department chair; Jack Albers, retired calculus teacher; Joe Schmiesing, current religion teacher and social studies department chair; and current science teacher Tracy Hall.
“I was very surprised and feel honored to have been chosen by my fellow teachers for this award,” said Bertke. “Having only been here two years, I didn’t feel that I have made that much of an impact. The faculty here is so welcoming and helpful. Everyone supports everyone else. Plus Sister Ginny (chair of the science department) has really inspired me.”