PIQUA — Piqua City Schools Superintendent Dwayne Thompson recently announced this year’s District Teacher of the Year as fifth grade English language arts teacher Macarena Studebaker, who was celebrated by her staff virtually after the surprise announcement.
Two weeks ago, each building in the district selected one teacher to receive the Outstanding Educator of the Year award. Each of those individuals answered questions that were submitted to the Piqua Teacher of the Year Committee for their review. After discussing each candidate and their applications, the committee voted and Studebaker was selected as the district finalist.
Thompson noted that it was a difficult decision as all the candidates were worthy of this recognition. Studebaker’s nomination by her peers included the following information, “Macarena is one of the most genuine people I know and have had the pleasure to work with. She volunteers countless hours to staff events and after school activities. Macarena makes learning fun for her students with her creative lessons, caring heart, and her role modeling. Macarena is proof that with a positive attitude, motivation, and a willingness to dream that you can do anything and be anything.”
Studebaker is finishing her seventh year as a Piqua teacher, but she is no stranger to the district as she graduated from PHS in 2009. She fondly remembers her years as a student in Piqua and the significance they hold in helping her to become the teacher she is today. Studebaker recalled, “It was at the age of eight, I knew I wanted to be a Piqua teacher. When I was eight, my mother and I moved from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico to Piqua.” She said, “My only language spoken was Spanish. In October of 1999, I was enrolled in (fourth) grade at Washington Intermediate; I was not prepared for what would be my biggest accomplishment, yet greatest hardship.”
Studebaker is thankful for the many teachers, tutors, and staff members who have helped her along the way.
“Piqua City Schools and the Piqua community changed my life. For this reason, I knew I wanted to come back and teach here so I could give back to the community just a tiny bit of what they did for me,” she said.
Thompson noted that, in her application, Studebaker wrote, “Every child is a gem no matter how many rough spots or how difficult the job may seem. They are all worth it. That extra minute of patience and love, when you feel like there is no more to give, give it.” Thompson went on to say, “Every parent wants this for his/her child and every child deserves this. This trait and so much more is what makes Ms. Studebaker stand out as this year’s District Teacher of the Year.”
The Piqua District Teacher of the Year Committee also selects a Support Staff Member of the Year, Friend of the Schools, and Outstanding Substitute Teacher of the Year at the conclusion of each school year.
This year’s Support Staff Member of the Year is Springcreek Secretary Kelly Snider. Snider was nominated by a number of her peers for this honor. Committee Member and colleague Jackie Thase said, “Kelly arrives early each morning to set a positive tone for the staff and students each day. Whether it is whimsical decorations, fun holiday decorations, bouncy morning music, and fun messages in daily emails, Kelly makes staff and students happy to be at school. She treats all families with respect, kindness, (and) fairness. She is truly a ‘pay-it-forward’ person as the care (and) concern she shows everyone in her professional (and) personal life constantly bubbles forth. We are so blessed to have Kelly in the front office taking care of us!”
There are two Friends of the Schools that will receive recognition this year. Long-time Piqua music department supporter Tom Fry was nominated by a number of school personnel. Fry has been working behind the scenes at PHS for well over 20 years. One nomination noted, “There is a lot of ‘magic’ that goes into all the performances – structures, lights, sound, and more. None of this was possible for the past 20 years without Mr. Fry’s help.” Music director, Tom Westfall added, “If you’ve attended a concert, musical, or production at Piqua High School in the past 20 plus years, you’ve experienced why Tom Fry is more than deserving of ‘Friend of the School.’ He is the man behind the curtain. Tom Fry works tirelessly for our community and our students, he is a star!”
The Piqua kitchen staff were also chosen by the committee to receive this honor. Also nominated by a number of staff members, this group of individuals have been essential to feeding the children of the community during the COVID-19 crisis.
“All children in our community no matter their age 1-18 and the school they attend –private or public — have benefited from their services,” Thompson said.
The Piqua Schools kitchen staff work throughout the week ordering, planning, packaging, and helping volunteers distribute thousands of breakfasts and lunches. Committee member Josh Smith said, “Our kitchen staff has done a tremendous job feeding our students high quality meals every day. This caring did not stop with the closure of schools. They have provided meals, smiles, special messages, and love to students and families during a time of uncertainty. They are very deserving of this award.”
The final award decided by this committee is the Golden Apple Award, which is given to an outstanding substitute teacher for his/her service.
“It is sometimes difficult to find substitute teachers,” Thompson said. “We are fortunate to have great people to fill in when our teachers are sick. We felt it was important to recognize outstanding workers that play a vital role in helping us to continue good education when a teacher is out.”
Veteran substitute teacher Pat Williams was chosen as this year’s recipient of this award after being nominated by a number of teachers. PHS teacher and committee member Paula Schmiesing said, “When going into a classroom and seeing Pat Williams is the sub for the day, this puts a smile on my face. I know that the classroom will run smoothly as she has a great rapport with the students and the students respect her.”
The district normally has an end of the year celebration where individuals are recognized in front of the whole staff. Thompson said, “This year is certainly unique and we had to recognize these individuals differently than in past years, but we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss this opportunity to honor the many great contributions put forth on behalf of our students. I hope they can each imagine us giving them a standing ovation. We are certainly blessed to have so many great individuals that care about the children of this community!”