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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Award-winning teachers a study in the joy of learning

Last Sunday I promised you a proper introduction to the 2012 winners of the Adele Knight Excellence in Teaching Award, one at North High in Eastlake and the other at South High in Willoughby.

They are selected by their peers and each receives a plaque and $500 stipend. Let us proceed.
Mary Beth Adams is a guidance counselor at North. She wanted to be an educator “for as long as I can remember,” much of her inspiration coming from her three sons, Drew, Nick and Jake. “Raising them,” she said, “brought me great joy and satisfaction, and helped me understand the diversity and potential found in all children.”

She graduated from Lake Catholic in 1977, attended Muskingum College and then transferred to Bowling Green to major in special education, elementary education and math.

After teaching briefly in Findlay, she was hired in the Willoughby-Eastlake Distict in September 1982, where she remained for the past 30 years.

She taught learning disabilities at Taft and Shoregate, then at Royalview Elementary, meanwhile earning a master’s degree in guidance counseling.

She became a guidance counselor at Willowick Middle School, then went to North High as a guidance counselor for the majority of her years in the district.

“I have enjoyed every position and every age level,” she said. “I have met so many wonderful students, great families and worked with many outstanding educators and administrators.

“Each experience has been important in helping me become a better educator, counselor and person. I look back with overwhelming pride and satisfaction to know that I was able to be a part of so many lives.”

Mary Slak, an English teacher and last year’s Excellence winner at North, was effusive in her praise for Mary Beth.

“I was immediately struck by the brightness of her smile and cheerfulness of her disposition,” Mary said. She described Mary Beth as an extremely knowledgeable educator.

“No matter what tasks need to be accomplished in a given day, she will stop what she is doing to help whoever needs her help.”

The lengthy letter of support praised her as “tireless, hard-working, competent and always having an ability to see the positive in any situation and the good in every student.”

Equal praise was heaped upon Beth Frabotta, this year’s South High award winner.

“Dedicated, compassionate and energetic,” were words used to describe the biology and honors teacher.

A graduate of John Carroll, she coached volleyball and was assistant track coach at Gilmour Academy. She taught science at Cuyahoga Heights, then came to South High in 1996 as head volleyball coach and ninth grade science teacher, launching a 16-year tenure as a faculty member.

She coached volleyball for six years, until the arrival of her first son, Dante, in 2001. Beth and her husband Craig welcomed two more boys, Damon in 2004 and Cole in 2005. Meanwhile, she moved into her main focus, teaching general biology and honors biology.

She obtained a master’s degree in education and became active in a number of committees and programs at South. All of those committees have similar goals – to better the learning environment for students and enhance the working environment for her colleagues.

“If you ever had the pleasure,” Beth’s nominator, Jessica Mormino, said, “of working with her as a coach, teacher or on a committee/program development team you would quickly realize she puts her heart into everything she does.

“She is honest, professional and thoughtful, always seeking an end result that would impact South High positively.

“It would be hard to include all of the examples that make Beth an outstanding teacher. They would vary from helping a student with needed school supplies, starting a drive to help give students in need a Christmas to remember and helping foreign exchange students learn English in addition to science.”

I could go on, telling you much more about Mary Beth Adams and Beth Frabotta. But you get the idea. They are not only accomplished professionals in education, but are also held in high esteem by their peers.

They represent two more worthy recipients of the Adele Knight Excellence in Teaching Award that give meaning and purpose to the program, and make the committee members want to maintain it at the high level it has enjoyed since 2000.


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