Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Recent Adele Knight award winners make an impact

Picking up where we left off last week, I would like to offer some background on this year’s winners of the Adele Knight Excellence in Teaching Awards.
To me, this award embodies great and significant meaning, because each year the top teacher at North High in Eastlake as well as the top teacher at South High in Willoughby is selected by his or her peers to receive the prestigious award.
Along with it goes a plaque for display in the respective schools and a stipend of $500.
The program has been in existence since 2000. Last week, I listed all the previous winners but didn’t have the space to adequately list the accomplishments of this year’s winners of the award, named in honor of a beloved Latin teacher for many years at the former Willoughby Union High School. She taught in the district for a few years after that school was closed in 1958.
Long after her passing, she remains a beloved figure and icon in the school district and an inspiration to every teacher who loves the classrooms and the students they encounter every day.
The Adele Knight recipient this year at South High was Erin Dodson, who is a 1996 graduate of South.
She has been teaching at South in the social studies department for 11 years and has taught American History, Civics, Sociology and Advanced Placement Psychology.
Her colleagues call her an amazing educator who serves as an inspiration for her colleagues.
“Perhaps most notable,” says South Principal Patrick Ward, “is her ability to reach all of her students and push them to excel both in the classroom and outside the school.
“Ms. Dodson goes out of her way,” he continued, “to assure all of her students are always engaged. She sets high expectations and knows how to reach all her students.
“When you speak to her students, they describe her as intense with a soft side. There is no doubt that she has left a lasting impact on all her students.”
In addition, she is seen as a teacher-leader within the school community. Her relentless optimism, it is said, coupled with her passion for working with her students, is infectious.
During the  2014-2015 school year she led the entire school in an effort to raise more than $7,000 for United Way.
“Ms. Dodson,” Ward added, “is a master educator who captures the essence of what the Adele Knight Award is all about.”
The award recipient this year at North High, Kevin Boyd, attended Bowling Green State University and earned his bachelor’s degree in Science. He secured a license in comprehensive science while majoring in Biology, graduating in 1998.
He has been teaching at North High for 16 years, also coaching football for five years and baseball for four years.
He is currently National Honor Society advisor at North, Science Department chairman and AP Biology teacher.
While at North he completed his master’s degree at Cleveland State University and is working on his administrative license through Ashland University.
North Principal Jennifer Chauby has known Boyd since he began teaching there in 2000, and said, “Kevin strives to bring real-life experiences into his classroom.”
She added that “he exposes his students to scientific information while relating it to events that have shaped our scientific understanding.
“He also engages his students in meaningful dialog that will shape their future and he genuinely cares about the academic progress of his students.”
He has a commanding understanding of the subject matter, Chauby added, and has an innate ability to convey that knowledge to his students.
“It is an honor to work with such a fine educator,” she said.
A teaching colleague of Boyd’s, math teacher Matthew Blair, graduated from North with Boyd, and said he could not think of a more deserving recipient of the Adele Knight Award.
“Kevin is a master teacher who inspires his students and colleagues through his example,” he said. “He teaches very challenging classes and finds a way to push his students to work harder than they ever thought they could.
“His talent and work ethic are an inspiration. I am proud to have him as a colleague and a friend.”
And there you have it, my friends. This year’s winners of the Adele Knight Award. I am glad you gave me an opportunity to introduce them to you.
The committee meets only once a year, at North High for a luncheon hosted by Jen Chauby. Around the table this year in addition to our hostess were Dodson, Boyd, previous winners Robert Prince (2000) and Charles Koelling (2001), South Principal Patrick Ward, Assistant Superintendent Charles Murphy, and two committee members, Jack Platz and me.
Jack, a long-time Lake County commissioner who taught with Miss Knight before a lengthy career as a professor at Lakeland Community College, is a new addition to the committee.
As in all of his other endeavors, his input was valuable. He is a welcome addition to the group.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Jim Collins: North, South teachers presented with Adele Knight award

One of my great pleasures in life is my involvement with the Adele Knight awards.
I have told you about these prestigious awards on several previous occasions but the story is worth repeating.
And besides, we have two new winners to announce, so they will take center stage in this year’s tale.
The 2015 winners are Kevin Boyd of North High in Eastlake, where he holds several positions of importance, including being an AP biology teacher for 11 years, and Erin Dodson of South High in Willoughby, where she has taught in the social studies department for 11 years.
They are recipients of the Adele Knight Excellence in Teaching Award by virtue of having been chosen for this honor by their peers.
To be so honored by one’s fellow teachers is both meaningful and noteworthy, because so many such awards are merely popularity contests.
I don’t mean to imply that these two teachers are not popular, because they certainly are, but they also have the honor of being selected by their peers for the excellent work they do.
I will spend the remainder of today’s essay telling you how these awards came to be, and next week I will give you some background on this year’s winners and share some of the opinions offered by their principals and fellow teaches.
The awards were the brainchild of Dr. Wesley J. Pignolet, a graduate of Willoughby Union High School and great admirer of Adele Knight, who was his Latin teacher.
Wes was a general practitioner in the field of medicine who later returned to college to specialize in ophthalmology, a field in which he was to gain acclaim in Willoughby and throughout the area.
As was so often the case when he came up with a great idea, Wes invited a group of friends and fellow Union High graduates, about 15, as I recall, to lunch.
He spoke of his admiration for Miss Knight, and said it would be a worthy undertaking to establish a scholarship in her honor.
She was still living at the time, and was flattered by the offer. But several of us believed that there were plenty of scholarships available to students who had the desire and backgrounds to obtain them.
So, after much discussion, we decided to set up fund to honor the best teachers at each school. The plan was to present the winners with plaques and $500 stipends.
The plan proceeded very well, but in the early years we could afford to honor only one teacher each year —- first one at North and the next year one at South.
Thus beginning in 2000 we rotated the award between the two schools.
We also sent out hundreds, maybe thousands, of letters to former students of Miss Knight, asking for financial support.
The money began to arrive in sufficient quantity so that we were able to present single awards from 2000 through 2004.
By that time we had raised enough money so that we could hand out two awards each year, to a teacher from North and one from South, which we have continued doing to this day.
A quick look at our bank account would indicate that we will be able to continue the awards for a few more years.
That original committee of about 15 members who established the concept for the awards and has carried on with the project has dwindled to about two.
I am one of them, and I think Ann Kassing is the other, although I haven’t seen her lately. The others, including Dr. Jim McCann, Greg Johnson and so many others who learned their verb forms from Miss Knight, sadly to say, are no longer with us.
But we established a legacy worth perpetuating. And, of course, the main credit goes to Wes Pignolet, who never had an idea that he didn’t feel was worth pursuing.
Here is a list of the previous winners of the Adele Knight Excellence in Teaching Award. You may find some familiar names here:
2000 — Bob Prince, North
2001 — Chuck Koelling, South
2002 — Lorraine Gauvin, North
2003 — John Pennington, South
2004 — Patricia Norris, North
2005 — Victor St. Hillaire, North; Lydia Komocki, South
2006 — Betsy Lichtinger, North; Carol Fishwick, South
2007 — Sherry Wagner, North; Marjorie Masci, South
2008 — Sharyn Zeppo, North; Charles R. Stewart, South
2009 — Karen Donahue, North; Karin Maniche, South
2010 — Patrick L. Kwiatkowski, North; Ann Armstrong, South
2011 — Mary Slak, North; Alison Grant, South
2012 — Mary Beth Adams, North; Beth Frabotta, South
2013 — Deanna Elsing, North; Steven Nedlik, South
2014 — Paula Clark, North; Paula Lindsay, South
Next week, more about Kevin Boyd of North and Erin Dodson of South, this year’s winners.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pining for a golf event that never came to fruition

The front page headline a couple weeks ago proclaimed, “Bear sighting in NE Ohio.”
It turns out the bear in question was one Jack Nicklaus, known throughout his illustrious golf career as the Golden Bear.
He was in the news in Northeast Ohio because of his appearance at Elyria Country Club on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Jack Nicklaus Golf Benefit, which raises an enormous amount of money every year for Lorain County Community College.
It was a longtime friend of Jack’s, Judge Joseph Cirigliano, who persuaded him to lend his name to the golf outing in hopes of raising funds for the college. To say that the effort has been successful would be an understatement. Over those 25 years, more than $1 million has been raised to benefit the endowment.
I think that has been a terrific undertaking, and my fervent wish, after playing in the Elyria event two or three times, was that we could do something on the same order involving Pine Ridge Country Club and Arnold Palmer to benefit Lakeland Community College.
Joe Cocozzo and I tried hard to make that happen, but our plan met several roadblocks and it just never worked out.
The Elyria event was not cheap. I would say it is one of the more expensive golf outings I have ever heard of. But the charity was a worthy one, and nobody grumbled about the cost — least of all Joe and me.
We didn’t complain because our entry fees were paid by our legal firm, which had managed to put a couple of kids through college with its income from a libel suit or two it had defended on behalf of The News-Herald.
I am doing this from memory (I should check this out with Joe, because his memory is infallible) but as I recall, the entry fee was $400 per golfer.
And here’s an added moneymaker: The pro, in the case of the original event, Nicklaus, would play nine holes with two groups, for an additional $5,000 per golfer.
Yes, that many players were willing to kick in $5,000 each for the privilege of playing either the front side or the back side with the Golden Bear.
Joe and I never approached our legal team with a request to be included with these elite groups. Besides, the fivesomes were routinely sold out.
After Nicklaus originated the event, a different pro was invited every year (always on a Monday, the traditional day off for professional golfers) to lend his name to the event.
And by the way, the pro picked up a check for $25,000 just to appear, play 18 holes of golf and put on a clinic for the rest of the “investors.”
What the pros did with their one-day paychecks was their business. It was also a matter of interest — at least, to me it was.
Some of them, like Nicklaus, gave the money back to the college. Nice gesture. Others pocketed it, presumably because they had bills to pay.
I heard stories about which were the generous ones and which were the cheapskates, but I am reluctant to divulge the names for fear of telling tales out of school.
I remember vividly an event featuring Lee Trevino, because of an incident at breakfast. We had to get there about 7:30 a.m. before the golf got started.
As we were eating our scrambled eggs, I told Joe, who was my boss at the time, he being the N-H publisher, “I’m going to ask Trevino (who was seated at the head table) to autograph this golf visor so we can auction it off to raise money for Clothe-A-Child.”
Trevino complained bitterly about my request. “They don’t even let you finish eating around here,” he growled.
Swell guy, I thought. I was doing it not as a fan of his but for charity.
Another year when Joe and I played in the outing, the event was headed by not one but two professionals — Ken Venturi and Jan Stevenson.
Jan was one of the better looking golfers I have encountered in many years of golf watching.
Venturi left early because he had to catch a plane for California. Stevenson stuck around for our golfing edification and a ball-striking clinic.
Another year Joe attended but I wasn’t there. He said Chi Chi Rodriguez put on an amazing demonstration in which he placed two golf balls on the ground, hit them in quick succession to slice one and fade the other, with the intention of making them collide in mid-air.
“Did they?”  I asked.
“No,” said Joe. “But they came awfully close.”
Since Arnie Palmer played out of Pine Ridge in Wickliffe when he won the National Amateur, we though it would be great to put on a similar scholarship event in this area to benefit Lakeland.
Unfortunately, we were never able to make it work out.