Three outstanding local teachers have been recognized by the New Carlisle Rotary Club as “Teachers of the Year.”

Betsy Gannon, Heidi Kottmyer, and MSgt. Antonio Ruiz were chosen from a field of 25 nominees to be honored for their commitment to education, enthusiasm, innovation, concern for students, community involvement, and the myriad other qualities that make great teachers. Each winner received a symbolic School Bell as a tribute to their ability to teach and a $500.00 cash award for their personal use.

Betsy Gannon (First Grade, Northwestern Elementary School) was nominated by her fellow teachers. A few of the things they say in their nomination letters is that Gannon “is always trying to improve her already excellent teaching skills;” she “devotes herself to each student, and shows genuineness in her interactions targeting students’ strengths (and grows) each student in their ability;” and she frequently “arrives early and stays late to prepare quality instruction to her students.”

“What precious lives we hold in our hands,” said an emotional Gannon in an acceptance speech that frequently mentioned how she is constantly inspired by her fellow teachers. She also related how her father encouraged her to follow her dream of teaching, and how her husband and family continue to support her in her work. Gannon has been teaching for over 28 years.

Heidi Kottmyer (Second Grade, Donnelsville Elelmentary) was nominated by Donnelsville Principal, Jay Burkholder. In his nomination letter, Burkholder writes, “Heidi is a tireless worker...she takes an interest in her students and makes sure they are cared for in a way that goes beyond academics...Watching her teach and help the kids and staff here at Donnelsville has been a true privilege.”

“As teachers, we always have to look for the good in our students,” said Kottmyer in an acceptance speech that highlighted several teachers she had as a child who made a deep impression on her, especially the Kindergarten teacher for whom her daughter is named after. Kottmyer became visibly moved when she dedicated her award to the memory of Mrs. Deborah Heckman, a fellow teacher who passed away from cancer in February. Heckman has been teaching for over 20 years.

The last teacher recognized was MSgt Antonio Ruiz (Tecumseh High School, JROTC). MSgt. Ruiz was nominated by JROTC instructor, Maj. Doug Couch and THS Principal, Ivan Gehret. MSgt Ruiz has been named an Outstanding Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Instructor 11 times; the honor is awarded to the top 10% of all JROTC instructors throughout the world. MSgt. Ruiz was also the first recipient of the JROTC Gold Instructor Badge. Under his leadership, the Tecumseh JROTC program has won the Distinguished Unit with Merit award for 14 consecutive years, a feat not accomplished by any other unit in the world.

Maj. Couch writes in his nomination that MSgt Ruiz’s teaches the 105 cadets in Tecumseh’s JROTC program “leadership, principles of flight, integrity, patriotism, citizenship, drill and ceremony, and physical fitness... (He teaches) students to become better citizen leaders, to think of others before themselves, and to put the community’s needs above their own.”

Principal Gehret writes, “MSgt. Ruiz has done much more than teach the JROTC cadets at Tecumseh; he has helped them develop into adults who are competent and ready to take on the world...MSgt. Ruiz teaches respect for self, others, community and country. He sets high expectations for the cadets and they continually rise up to the challenge...He leads by example, and instills a sense of community into the JROTC program.”

In his acceptance speech, MSgt. Ruiz mentioned how his childhood experiences as a minority in a small Kansas town shaped who he is, and that he strives to use those experiences, “(To) show students they have worth, that they have value, and to help them become better and productive citizens.”

MSgt. Ruiz began his career with Tecumseh’s JROTC after he retired from the Air Force in 1996. He is frequently seen engaging in community service with his JROTC cadets, especially for Honor Flight. When MSgt. Ruiz was recently unable to attend an Honor Flight homecoming after being severely hurt in an auto accident, his cadets still showed up to welcome the veterans home, a testament to MSgt. Ruiz’s powerful leadership.

“They know how important it is to show respect for the veterans. I teach my students integrity,” says MSgt. Ruiz, “They know I would expect nothing less from them than to be there to welcome those veterans home.”

MSgt. Ruiz just recently returned to work after spending several months recuperating from that auto accident, however, he is still recovering. He says he has been “extremely touched” the outreach of love from the school and community.

Congratulates all of the Rotary Teacher of the Year award recipients, and thank you for your contributions to our children and the community.

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