Story by Peggy Kreimer Hodgson Rotary PR Specialist
Cincinnati Public School teachers and administrators who inspire, innovate and support students in and out of the classroom were honored by The Rotary Club of Cincinnati in June at the Rotary’s annual Teacher Recognition program at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel.
“These educators represent the best of what education is, not only in the Cincinnati Public Schools, but in the country,’ said Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Iranetta Wright, as she introduced the honorees.
Wright said the energy and passion educators bring to day-to-day actions build the future of their students, and of the community.
Robin Day, who has been teaching at Winton Hills Academy in Winton Hills for two decades, received the Community Service Award for her constant and creative support for students and their families. Along with tutoring students and consistently raising student achievement, this math teacher meets practical needs from coordinating transportation for a student with special needs to raising funds for students to attend field trips and buy supplies, and attending their after-school activities.
Antonio Smith, Teacher at Ethel M. Taylor Academy in Millvale, was named Humanitarian of the Year for his ability to draw the best out of students who struggle with multiple challenges. His principal described him as “a beacon of hope in a tough neighborhood” and his classroom as “a safe sanctuary” where Smith helps students discover their strengths.
Bradley Gerard, technical theater director at the School for Creative and Performing Arts in downtown Cincinnati, was named Innovator of the Year.
“He breathes innovation into his daily lessons,” said Wright. His students learn how to design and build props, prepare staging and master the technical aspects of putting on productions from musical theater to opera and concerts. Gerard, who also works in the performing arts production industry, combines real-world experience with classroom instruction to ignite creativity and merge passion with practical skills and interaction in the community. He has developed curriculum and written textbooks and has become a mentor, advisor and role model for students and fellow educators.
Traci Cummings, teacher at Sands Montessori School in Mt. Washington, was named Teacher of the Year. “She instills in children a love for learning and a desire to achieve,” said Wright, who described Cummings’ classroom as a place where students feel valued and respected, and where high expectations are coupled with a personal connection with each student. “She lives her life by two South African virtues,” said Wright, “‘Sowubona,’ which means ‘I see you’ and ‘Ubuntu,’ which means ‘I am because of you.’”
Wright said Cummings’ goal is to help students become respectful, responsible leaders who want to make a difference in the world.
Vicki Graves-Hill, principal of Roll Hill Academy in East Westwood, was named administrator of the year. She has been an educator for more than 30 years, and uses that experience as teacher and administrator to assure that every decision is based on the needs of the children, said Wright.
Roll Hill Academy students have shown dramatic achievement results and Graves-Hill is both a mentor and an exceptional leader, supporting her teachers and administrators as well as students and their families.
Wright said the Rotary awards celebrate the power of educators to shape the future.
“Every child has a spark,” she said. “It is just a matter of getting the right educator in front of them to ignite that spark.”
The awards program was introduced by Rotarian Allison Kaufman of Milford, director of programming at Magnified Giving, who works closely with teachers and students on student-led philanthropy projects. “I am constantly impressed by their passion to meet each child where they are,’ she said.
The Rotary Club of Cincinnati has a mission to promote service above self, and created the Rotary Awards to recognize excellence in law enforcement, firefighters and educators.