Four Clark County teachers were honored Monday for their dedication to local students at the 28th annual Excellence in Teaching Awards.
David Hay, head of the Culinary Arts program at the Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center; Adrienne Liefeld, first grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in the Springfield City School District; Cheri Mayfield, kindergarten teacher at Reid School in the Clark Shawnee School District; and Michael Payne, English teacher at the Global Impact STEM Academy all talked about their passion for instilling children with the desire to learn.
Each recipient was given a marble apple, a commemorative plaque and a check for $1,000 during the Springfield Rotary Club’s weekly meeting at Clark State Community College’s Hollenbeck-Bayley Conference Center, Monday.
Hay, a restaurant chef for years before he began teaching, created the student-run restaurant on CTC’s campus and built the culinary program from just a few students 19 years ago to an acclaimed competitor, consistently ranking in the top three at statewide competitions.
He said he’s enjoyed growing from a chef, ego in the kitchen and all, into a teacher and most importantly a coach.
Hay’s daily motto for working with students is, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you treated them.”
Liefeld is only in her third year of teaching, but has already become deeply involved with the Promise Neighborhood project at Lincoln, headed by her former Wittenberg professor and mentor Bob Welker.
The daughter of two educators, she always thought she’d head back to teach in her suburban Columbus hometown after attending Wittenberg, but said she was drawn to Lincoln instead to help children in the most desperate need.
“I became part of the neighborhood and it became an indelible part of me,” she said.
She recalled an incident her first year of teaching in which a six-year-old student’s father was shot to death just a few days into the school year. She often felt her best wasn’t enough as she tried to help him through that year, but the boy later sent her a thank you note after moving away. It said “Happy Mother’s Day” and thanked her for being like a mother to him.
“As much as they challenge me, my students make every day exciting and different, and the love and joy they bring in return makes each challenge worthwhile,” Liefeld said.
Cheri Mayfield has been teaching for 24 years and said she sees herself staying in kindergarten the rest of her career because of the enormous growth she gets to see in her students over one year.
“It’s amazing to watch kindergartners become problem solvers,” she said. “It is a delight to watch them become readers, writers and mathematicians.”
The co-worker who nominated Mayfield described her as the most patient, purposeful and positive teacher there is.
“I believe you can turn any negative situation into something positive,” Mayfield said.
Michael Payne recalled the unusual job interview he had with GISA Director Josh Jennings at a Bob Evans restaurant, because the school wasn’t even in existence yet.
Despite his untucked shirt and visible tattoos, Jennings hired him.
Just three years later, Payne said he’s humbled by this award and he gave an impassioned speech about the problems with standardized curriculum and testing.
“Global Impact, it’s pretty amazing in its need to put students constantly first,” he said. “We have created a school in which teachers really get to teach.”
The Excellence in Teaching awards are sponsored by Columbia Gas of Ohio, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, the Springfield Foundation, the Springfield News-Sun and Springfield Rotary.