Leaving a lasting impression: Seymour scholars recognize most influential teachers

Nine Seymour High School senior scholar candidates had the unique opportunity to thank educators who made a lasting impression on them.

On May 6, the scholars and their families attended a special dinner at The Pines Evergreen Room to recognize and honor each student’s choice for their most influential teacher.

The event has become an annual tradition and helps kick off National Teacher Appreciation Week, which ran from May 7 to 11.

This year’s scholars are Rebekah Franke, Molly Hayes, Trent Hohenstreiter, Anna May Huff, Connie Li, Claire Loebker, Alexandra Nguyen, Alan Perry and Victoria Snook. Each student wrote a few paragraphs about why their particular teacher meant so much to them. Those documents were framed, and each student presented it to their teacher.

Principal Greg Prange said the event is very special for teachers.

“Teachers do not get into the game of education for monetary reasons,” he said. “Teaching is a calling, and for you to choose your teacher of all the teachers you had, I told you how special this is to them. It really is.”

Franke chose her second- and third-grade teacher at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Columbus, Terry Malinski.

“In those two years, you taught me a lot more than simple math facts, how to write in cursive and all the other standards teachers were required to teach,” Franke read from her what she had written about Malinski. “You were a strong influence in building the foundation for the type of student and person I have become in the nine years since I sat in your class.”

Franke said what made Malinksi stand out was that she challenged her students and set expectations beyond the normal requirements but still made school and learning fun. She also credits Malinski for being the inspiration to become an elementary school teacher herself.

“You were the reason I brought home a backpack of AR books every night and was far ahead in my math abilities,” Franke said. “Most importantly, you continued to be a Christian witness and role model for me.”

Hayes chose Seymour High School history teacher Shane Fallis for reinvigorating her love of learning.

“By the time I had reached my junior year of high school, I was feeling worn down by my studies and apathetic toward most of my classes,” Hayes said.

But that changed when she took Fallis’ AP U.S. history class.

“I suddenly found myself becoming more and more interested in the material you were teaching,” Hayes said. “It was as though I was seeing history through new eyes, and ever since, my love of learning new things, something that is so important to me, has finally returned.”

Being named a student’s most inspirational teacher is a “tremendous honor,” Fallis said.

“It means more than you could know,” he said.

In honoring Seymour High School guidance counselor and track and cross-country coach Randy Fife, Hohenstreiter said he thought of him as so much more than just coach.

“You have been a friend, a mentor and a teacher. You have pushed me to be the best I could be in everything I do, whether it’s running, academics, other extracurriculars or just being a better person,” Hohenstreiter said. “You have never stopped believing in me, even when I have a hard time believing in myself. I cannot thank you enough for the impact you’ve had on my life.”

Huff selected Seymour Middle School science teacher Nathan Owen for helping her overcome her shyness.

She said she never enjoyed talking in class or trying to make new friends because she feared she would be wrong or others would see her as awkward.

That changed when she had Owen because he would have her read in front of the class, she said.

“I learned to be more confident in myself day by day,” she said. “You saw beyond my shyness and made me overcome my fear of being wrong and scared. I believe I am successful because of your efforts.”

Owen said he didn’t deserve such an honor.

“Sixth-grade science should not be that hard to teach, but I had to really push myself because of the way she would challenge me,” Owen said of Huff. “I do feel like I became a better teacher because of her. This means the world to me.”

Li honored Seymour-Redding Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Debbie Stout.

Transferring to Redding in the fourth grade was daunting, Li said, because it was a new school and she was shy.

“I remember the last day of elementary school, I went to say goodbye to you. You told me to be brave and that it was time to come out of my shell,” Li said. “In addition to being an encouraging figure in my early years, you are an outstanding elementary educator.”

Through activities, including weekly reader notebooks, Spell Bowl, toothpick bridge building and other projects, Stout made learning fun, Li said.

“You fostered my love for English and science,” Li said. “I believe that elementary education sets the foundation for a child’s love of learning. I want to say how lucky I am to have been your student and how thankful I am of your impact in my life.”

Stout said teachers don’t get a lot of recognition, but the rewards come in students like Li.

“These are the rewards you get when you teach,” she said of Li.

Loebker chose to honor Seymour High School science teacher Brad Cobb.

Although Loebker never actually had Cobb in class, he still had a major impact on her academic and athletic careers through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club, she said.

“You managed to teach me countless life lessons that have helped shape me into the person that I am today,” she said. “I will always remember you as one of the greatest role models in my life because of all of the helpful guidance you have given.”

Nguyen honored Redding fifth-grade teacher Sandy Mellencamp. Mellencamp was unable to attend the dinner because of her daughter’s graduation from veterinary school.

Although it has been seven years since she had Mellencamp as a teacher, Nguyen said she will never forget her.

“You were and still are such a great teacher because you bring excitement to learning,” Nguyen said. “The amount of effort and hard work you put in making all of your lessons more enjoyable needs to be recognized.”

Perry selected Seymour High School social studies teacher and baseball coach Jeremy Richey to honor as his most influential teacher.

Although he’s graduating this month and leaving Seymour in the fall to attend Cedarville University in Ohio, Perry said he will continue to seek out Richey for advice on baseball, school and life in general.

“Without you, I would not be in the position I am in today to play college baseball at a well-rounded school,” he said. “The amount of emails and texts you have sent out on my behalf is a little staggering, and I know you will always be in my corner. Whether it’s 20 days from now or 20 years, I know I can come to you about anything and everything, and for that, I cannot thank you enough.”

Richey said he does not take the title of most influential teacher lightly.

“This is the best honor I’ve ever received,” he said.

Snook chose to honor Seymour High School biology teacher Jaime Brown.

Starting with freshman biology, Snook said Brown pushed her to do her best and expected great things.

“You never let me slip behind and always tested my knowledge,” Snook said. “Not only did you push me in classwork, but you also helped me to step out of my comfort zone.”

Snook said coming to Seymour High School from a small private school was “scary,” but Brown made it easier.

“Without your help my freshman year, I would not be the same graduating senior I am today,” Snook said.

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Most influential teachers as chosen by 2018 Seymour scholar award candidates


Terry Malinksy;St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Columbus; Rebekah Franke

Shane Fallis;Seymour High School;Molly Hayes

Randy Fife;Seymour High School;Trent Hohenstreiter

Nathan Owen;Seymour Middle School;Anna Huff

Debbie Stout;Seymour-Redding Elementary School;Connie Li

Brad Cobb;Seymour High School;Claire Loebker

Sandra Mellencamp;Seymour-Redding Elementary School;Alexandra Nguyen

Jeremy Richey;Seymour High School;Alan Perry

Jaime Brown;Seymour High School;Victoria Snook