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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.

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.


Blogger Unknown said...

I am a 1967 graduate of Willoughby South High. I had Ms. Ann Kassing as a teacher. She taught shorthand, which I still use occasionally when I am in a rush. I remember forging a hall pass with her "AMK" initials. She was a sweet lady and always dressed in pencil skirts. She was an excellent teacher and always had a brilliant smile. Darlene Langa

September 15, 2015 at 4:22 PM 
Blogger patgaff said...


Great to see you still have the pen going.......Pat Gaffney....

Sarasota. f;

September 21, 2015 at 7:59 AM 

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