Seymour scholars recognize influential teachers

Sixteen Seymour High School senior scholars recently had the opportunity to thank the educators who have made a lasting impression on them.

On May 1, the scholars and their families attended a dinner at The Pines Evergreen Room to recognize and honor each student’s choice for the educator who has influenced them the most.

The event is an annual tradition and helps kick off National Teacher Appreciation Week, which runs from May 2 to 6.

This year’s scholars are Eliana Baker, Katie Deppen, Rolando Baltazar Felipe, Samantha Foster, Hayley Harpe, Millicent Hays, Samantha Jacobi, Valeria Ramirez Herrera, Dylan Nguyen, Hiley Obermeyer, John Polbito, Michael Proffer, Casey Regruth, Alexis Turner, Kaylee Waskom and Eli Wood.

Each student honored their most influential teachers in speeches and presented them with plaques.

Principal Greg Prange made the opening introduction, telling the seniors it was going to be a very special night for their teachers.

“I expect some hugs and some tears and I expect a lot of smiles, and this is a time for celebration as we get closer to graduation and the continuation of the education of 16 wonderful young men and women,” Prange said. “We are going to pause tonight because parents, you’re going to have your time at honor day and at graduation, but tonight is a night for some great, great educators.”

Prange then announced after speaking with the school counselors last Friday afternoon, the 16 seniors were no longer considered scholar candidates, they are all official Seymour senior scholars.

Third grade teacher Jo Ferguson was honored by Baker, who said she remembered the class being rewarded for their accomplishments, and while some things she learned in Ferguson’s class were hard, Baker is incredibly grateful for having her as a teacher.

Maria Hauersperger is a sixth grade world geography teacher and was honored by Felipe.

Felipe said five years ago, he was a 13-year-old kid who was not really thinking about the future, but once he joined Hauersperger’s class, he realized he wanted to do so much in life.

“You motivated me and made me realize I was capable of accomplishing anything I wanted to do in life as long as I was willing to work hard for it,” he said. “Your projects in class helped me realize the only limitations in my life are my levels of creativity, and you also taught me learning can be interesting and fun.”

High school band director Kevin Cottrill was chosen by Deppen as her most influential educator.

“During the past four years I’ve spent with you, you’ve molded me into a better musician and a better person,” Deppen said. “I’ve always appreciated your willingness to work with students, and you have molded this program into something other schools cannot compare to.”

Samantha Foster said Theresa Ragsdale, a teacher at Graham Creek Elementary School in Jennings County, has left an impact on her life that will never leave her, although Ragsdale was never officially her teacher.

“She gave me the opportunity to grow up and develop into being a successful young adult, as sixth grade is not the easiest of school years,” Foster said. “She has been an adviser and a mentor to me every step of the way, and I know I can always count on her for love and support.”

Harpe honored her dad, Superintendent Brandon Harpe, because he has been one of the biggest influences in her life since Day 1, even though she never got to have him as a teacher in school.

“He taught me some of the most interesting things, from helping him write his first speech as superintendent to filming videos for him over quarantine,” she said. “I started looking up to him more and more, and when I realized I had the chance to honor someone who has been a huge influence in my life, there’s no question in my mind that it would be him.”

Hays chose Seymour High School English and theater arts teacher Erik Stangland as her most influential teacher for encouraging her to stay involved in the arts after she joined the Seymour Owl Theater Company as a freshman.

“Theater has become a very important part of my life, and I have found passion for both acting and directing that I never would’ve discovered otherwise,” Hays said. “I would not be the person I am today without theater, and I never would’ve gotten involved without Mr. Stangland’s influence, and for that, I will be forever grateful to him.”

Spencer Sunbury, a kindergarten teacher at Seymour-Redding Elementary School and a high school coach, was Jacobi’s influencer.

“Mr. Sunbury has been my cross-country and track coach for four years, and within those four years, I’ve grown tremendously,” Jacobi said. “How to strengthen myself mentally, stay positive and learn from my mistakes are just a few of the many things he has taught me.”

Nguyen honored high school math and computer science teacher Matt Dennis for introducing him to computer science his junior year, which is what he has decided to study in college in the fall. Until Dennis’ class, Nguyen was undecided of what field he wanted to go into after high school.

Obermeyer said over the past 13 years, from kindergarten to Grade 12, she has been impacted by more than 50 teachers, but Debra Carroll stands out as her most influential teacher for her compassion and inspiration.

“Over the last seven years that I’ve had Mrs. Carroll, I’ve continued to see how passionate she is about teaching and impacting kids’ lives,” Obermeyer said. “Mrs. Carroll has impacted me through half of my 13 years, teaching me lessons that go far beyond the classroom.”

Sheena Isaacs, Spanish teacher at Seymour High School, was chosen to be honored by Polbito because if it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t be able to speak Spanish the way we does now, he said.

“Not only are you helpful with Spanish, you are helpful and supportive of my ambitions, you are always willing to ensure that your students succeed with their goals,” Polbito said. “You are a person I can always come to when I need advice.”

Proffer chose high school social studies teacher Shane Fallis as his most influential teacher because his junior year, he still didn’t know what he wanted to do after high school, but Fallis changed that.

“You took time out of your own class to teach us life lessons and tell us stories that would surely aid us in the future, and you could’ve ignored many of our issues and continued teaching, but you made sure to address them,” Proffer said. “This commitment to our education beyond the classroom is the reason I chose you as my most influential teacher.”

Herrera said she remembers sitting in Erica Kelly’s class, thinking how lucky she was to have her for a teacher.

“I have learned to give to others just from you. I’ve learned many valuable lessons in my high school career,” she said. “You taught me that giving your best is all you can do, and if I do my best, everything else will fall into place.”

Regruth said he was honoring high school teacher Laura Cottrill because of her profound influence on him and many others, both inside and outside the classroom, and he is honored to know her as a teacher and as a friend.

Elementary school teacher Daphne Waskom was recognized by Turner as her most influential teacher, and she said without Waskom’s loving and welcoming presence back when she first started school, Turner would not be as successful as she is today.

Kaylee Waskom honored Wayne Woodard as her most influential teacher.

“Looking back, I consider myself extremely lucky to have been taught by Mr. Woodard, someone who treats his students like peers and is not afraid to stray away from the lesson plan to teach a more important lesson about life,” Waskom said.

Ann Tormoehlen was the final teacher honored Sunday evening and was recognized by Wood, who described he as entertaining, interactive, joyful and exciting. Even though at times the material might be challenging or tedious, she always finds a way to make learning enjoyable.