Students, teachers honored at annual dinner

By Sam Wildow -

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.”

Tippecanoe High School brought an impressive crowd with them Monday evening, sporting four valedictorians, two salutatorians, and six teachers. Salutatorian Emily Gootzeit and teacher Annette Malott were unable to attend the awards ceremony that evening.

Tippecanoe High School Co-Valedictorian Alisha Bhagwat honored teacher Fred Gillenwater.

“Mr. Gillenwater was somebody who kind of encouraged my nerdiness and (education),” Bhagwat said. “He cultivated my knowledge for learning.”

Bhagwat was an AP scholar and stage manager as well as participated in the spring musical, quiz team, choir, and more. She will be attending the Ohio State University to study English and pre-med.

The next co-valedictorian, Allison Chitwood, honored teacher Cory Breth.

“He’s always energetic in the classroom,” Chitwood said. “His encouragement gave us all confidence in the classroom.”

Chitwood participated in NHS, student senate, various clubs, varsity golf, and more. She will be attending Ohio University.

Co-Valedictorian Mitchell Poynter honored his cross country coach Byron Kimmel.

“I know he cares a lot about what he does,” Poynter said about Kimmel.

Poynter was an AP scholar always as participated in NHS, student senate, cross country and track, Lunch Buddy program, and more. He will be attending the University of Pennsylvania.

“I just had never been part of a genuine, practical, down-to-earth classroom before,” Tippecanoe Co-Valedictorian Nathan Shirley said about teacher Aimee Noel.

Shirley was a scholar athlete, AP scholar, and more. He will be attending the University of Virginia.

Tippecanoe Co-Salutatorian Thomas Chaney honored teacher Leonard Kenyon for having “a genuine love for teaching.” Chaney added that Kenyon taught “invaluable lessons” and provided “mental tools to purse a career” in science.

Chaney was an AP scholar, STEM scholar, Eagle Scout, and more. He also participated in NHS and science fair.

Tippecanoe Co-Salutatorian Jessica Hemmelgarn honored chemistry teacher Mike McCray.

“I would go to him for help a lot,” Hemmelgarn said. “He had a genuine interest in what he taught … He’s a great person and a great teacher.”

Hemmelgarn is an AP scholar and participated in running, the humane society, NHS, and more.

Troy Christian High School Valedictorian Bekah Landfair honored teacher Rebel Marcum. Landfair commended Marcum for being invested in Landfair’s education as well as being “a shoulder to cry on.”

“Thank you for setting the very best example for me to strive after,” Landfair said to Marcum.

Landfair participated in the spring musical, mission trips, NHS, honors choir, show choir, and more. She will be attending Grace College in Indiana.

Troy Christian High School Salutatorian Wesley Alexander honored teacher Thomas Royce, saying that when he first met him, he thought, “Wow, this guy is really awkward, but he seems pretty cool.”

“I wouldn’t be the man I am today without you,” Alexander said to Royce.

Alexander participated in soccer, choir, NHS, show choir, mission trips, and more. Alexander will be attending Wright State University.

“She gave me the work ethic and desire to keep reaching my goals,” Bethel High School Co-Valedictorian Chase Heck said about teacher Carla Burton.

Heck was senior class president and participated in band, choir, track, prom committee, student council, and more at Bethel High School. He will be attending Wright State University.

Bethel Co-Valedictorian Bradley McCarroll honored teacher Danny Elam, attributing Elam as to helping McCarroll establish his passion for music. McCarroll will be attending Wright State University.

“His focus on critical thinking … allows you to succeed,” Bethel Co-Valedictorian Joel Ricker said about teacher Mark Clute. “I think that’s helped many other students as well.” Ricker added later, “He s a great guy, great teacher.” Ricker will be attending Southeast Missouri State.

Milton-Union Valedictorian Sarah Motz said that she selected teacher Deborah Kurtz for her “extraordinary commitment to students in mathematics.”

“Her teaching style challenges and engages,” Motz said. Motz participated in volleyball, piano, track, show choir, NHS, and more. She will be attending the University of Pittsburgh.

Milton-Union Salutatorian Lydia Black honored teacher Ben Deeter for his patience, encouragement, and constructive criticism.

“The atmosphere of his class is very relaxed,” Black said. Black was senior class president, a varsity track runner, part of NHS, and more. She will be going to Kent State University.

“Most importantly, Mr. Davis cares about his students and their success,” Newton High School Maria Evers Valedictorian said about teacher Scott Davis. Evers participated in NHS, student council, marching band, and more. She will be going to Ohio University.

“He has challenged me to be a better person,” Newton Salutatorian Madison Mollette said about teacher Neal Hans. “I wouldn’t be the student, person, or athlete that I am today without him.”

By Sam Wildow

Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall

Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall