From left to right: Gage Chiles, Kathryn Wray, Louise Haas, Drew Kennedy, Michelle Turnwald, Jaden Wagner, Jen Rollins, Isiah Bretz, Ben Collins, Nathan Bidlack, Kerry Koontz, Reagan Priest, Bob Priest, Drew Bagley, Mark Bagley, Noelle Heffner, Nancy Brown, Emma Rutkowski, Kathleen Overmyer, and Jacob Laney. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
From left to right: Gage Chiles, Kathryn Wray, Louise Haas, Drew Kennedy, Michelle Turnwald, Jaden Wagner, Jen Rollins, Isiah Bretz, Ben Collins, Nathan Bidlack, Kerry Koontz, Reagan Priest, Bob Priest, Drew Bagley, Mark Bagley, Noelle Heffner, Nancy Brown, Emma Rutkowski, Kathleen Overmyer, and Jacob Laney. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – Van Wert City Schools held their 24th annual Teacher Appreciation Banquet on Wednesday at Willow Bend where they honored several educators as well as a retired educator who recently passed away.

Eleven students were selected to read letters to educators who had an impact on them throughout their time in school.

Five of those students were chosen by a committee to read their letters Wednesday evening. Drew Bagley chose his dad Mark Bagley (Middle School Principal), Isiah Bretz chose Ben Collins (Interim Athletic Director and coach), Drew Kennedy chose Michelle Turnwald (Gifted Intervention Specialist), Jacob Laney chose MaryAnn McIntosh (cafeteria), and Jaden Wagner chose Jen Rollins (Intervention Specialist).

Randy Gardner, who is on the committee that chooses the final students, said that the letters are very special to the teachers. He said it is clear that many students are impacted by their educators.

"Every year our conclusions are the same: teachers make a huge difference," said Gardner. "Forty-eight teachers received a letter this year. There are a lot of good things going on out there, and there are a lot of good people."

The students with the top GPA's were also able to read their letters aloud on Wednesday. This year, six students are tied with a 4.0 GPA. Nathan Bidlack read a letter to Kerry Koontz (Career Counselor), Gage Chiles chose Ryan Holiday (coach), Noelle Heffner chose Nancy Brown (English/Language Arts), Reagan Priest chose her dad Bob Priest (High School Principal), Emma Rutkowski chose Kathleen Overmyer (Science), and Kathryn Wray chose Louise Haas (Elementary).

Between reading letters, a special moment was taken to honor Bob Edinger who taught chemistry at Van Wert. Edinger passed away on May 10, 2018. Assistant Superintendent Bill Clifton spoke and told several personal stories about the personal impact Edinger, as a coach and teacher, had on him.

"Bob Edinger had so much of an impact on his students over many decades," said Clifton who noted that Edinger had been involved in education for over 50 years as a teacher, football coach, athletic director, and a school bus driver. "Bob Edinger had a tremendous impact on Bill Clifton, and I'm guessing Bob Edinger had a tremendous impact on other students."

Clifton read a poem by Edinger and noted that Edinger loved to write poetry.

At the end of the evening, Superintendent Vicki Brunn honored Pam Morris who is the only VWCS teacher expected to retire at the end of the school year.

Morris is retiring from Van Wert City Schools after 35 years. She taught sixth grade at Washington Elementary from 1985 until 2003. She then taught at Ohio City-Liberty Elementary from 2003 to 2006 while the new high school/middle school complex was being constructed. After the new middle school opened, Morris taught there as a sixth-grade science teacher.

When asked to describe her, her peers said, "she has a passion for middle school kids. She constantly goes above and beyond expectations."

"I'm so glad she worked here with us," said another peer. "She made us all better."

"There's no better legacy than that," added Superintendent Vicki Brunn.

The evening ended with the reading of another of Edinger's poems. Other poems were also printed and available to take home.