Four local teachers will be honored March 18 as the Rotary Club of Springfield continues its 25-year tradition of recognizing outstanding local educators.
This year’s honorees are Samantha Austin and Beth Biester, both of Springfield High School; Cathy Turner of Indian Valley Middle School, Greenon Local Schools; and Jim Yeazell of the Northwestern Local School District.
“Rotary has been involved for a number of years in a wide variety of programs impacting education in the community, most recently with mentoring programs at Fulton and Lincoln (elementary schools),” said Ed Leventhal, chair of the Excellence in Teaching committee. “I think certainly (Rotary) recognizes the importance that education and teachers play in the health and prosperity of the community.”
Yeazell didn’t start out planning to be a teacher — he originally majored in electrical engineering at the University of Dayton.
“It just kind of all came together and became a lifelong thing,” the 31-year veteran educator said. “It wasn’t something that I graduated right out of high school (and) wanted to do.”
Yeazell is the seventh to 12th grade band and music instructor for Northwestern. He taught for two years in Cedarville and then traveled as a musician before returning to education.
“One of the most rewarding things is you get to work with kids and watch them grow and progress and mature and become adults, and then use everything they’ve learned to become successful people,” he said.
Yeazell enjoys getting to introduce his music students to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like accepting the band’s “standing invitation” to Mardi Gras every few years or opening for a Chicago dinner theater.
Austin, who holds a master’s degree in education from Wright State University, did her student teaching at Springfield City Schools.
“I kind of fell in love with the district,” she said.
She liked the community, students and staff so much that she accepted an offer to stay on and has taught in the district for seven years. She currently teaches math at Springfield High.
“One of the things that keeps me most passionate is when the kids come back and visit and say how well prepared they were for college,” she said.
She became a teacher because of her natural rapport with teens, inspired by a teacher of her own as a student at Tipp City schools.
“I had a math teacher in high school who kind of inspired to me become a math teacher,” Austin said.. “She was always excited about the topic and her enthusiasm kind of … transferred over to her students very well.”
Biester was also inspired by a high school teacher to become an educator, although having a father who taught — also at Springfield City Schools — nearly derailed that.
“That almost kind of made me not want to do it at one point because you want to be your own person,” she said. But her high school English teacher and love of literature “… really got me to think that it was something that I was good at, and I liked kids, so it made sense.”
In the end, being a teacher “runs in the family,” she said.
Biester, a 14-year teacher, is an English teacher at Springfield High, where she teaches Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate English. Her students keep her inspired in the classroom.
“The cool thing is that with teaching, it’s different every year because you have different people,” she said. “You get to know the kids, and you get to know what they don’t know yet that you can still teach them and what you can help them do better.”
Turner taught for 10 years before her views as an educator were changed when she became a mother.
“I thank my son for teaching me because he has taught me more about life than the eight years in college,” she said.
Having her own child helped drive home that each child learns differently and has different needs.
“Discovering how my son learns, it’s rejuvenated me in teaching and learning different ways to reach kids,” she said. “I think I can keep rejuvenated by learning how kids learn and then watching kids be successful.”
Turner, who has a master’s degree from Wright State University, is a seventh grade social studies teacher at Indian Valley. She loves sharing her passion for history with students and relating it to current events.
Middle school is her favorite age to teach, she said.
“You have to love middle school kids,” Turner said. “You have to like 13-year-olds to be successful at it because it’s definitely a hard job.”
Rotary will recognize this year’s Excellence in Teaching recipients at a luncheon March 18.
“It’s something we place a lot of value on and look forward to doing on an annual basis,” said Leventhal.