SMITHVILLE: A nontraditional college graduate and, for the first time in 45 years of administering the Ohio Teacher of the Year award, a career-tech educator was recognized as the state’s leading teacher.
State Superintendent Richard Ross and state school board President Debe Terhar joined other education officials Wednesday to present the 2014 Ohio Teacher of the Year award to Debra McDonald, an early childhood education instructor at Wayne County Career Center.
“We need to celebrate great teachers in this state,” Ross said.
It was a teacher who changed Ross’ life, and that’s something students at the Career Center also say about McDonald.
“She’s very passionate about what she does. She’s helping us impact children’s lives,” said Heidi Asbury, one of McDonald’s students.
Asbury, a senior, works at the center’s preschool program and at Head Start programs in the community. She hopes to make a career of working with children, something that her teacher always has been passionate about.
“They learn how you can impact education,” McDonald said of touching the lives of students who in turn teach children.
“They’re going to continue to impact the lives of children. And I’m so grateful that they have been able to be a part of my life,” McDonald, who was surprised with the award Wednesday, told an auditorium full of students and fellow educators.
McDonald’s exponential effect as a teacher of teachers piqued the interest of a roughly 20-member selection committee of state education officials, local school board members, respected teachers and community members who have been reviewing Teacher of the Year applications since May.
“It’s a really big deal,” said Patty Griffin, state coordinator of award programs for the Ohio Department of Education.
“She’ll go on to compete for the National Teacher of the Year award,” Griffin noted.
A Wadsworth resident who grew up in Rittman, McDonald graduated from Wayne County Career Center in 1978.
Before returning to the career-tech center to teach prospective early childhood educators some 15 years later, McDonald married, had children and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Akron in 1994. She later received a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Marygrove College in Detroit in 2010.
McDonald also helps new teachers as a leader in the Ohio Resident Educator Program. She serves as president of the Wayne Association for the Education of Young Children and represents preschools on the Ohio Educator Standards Board, which defines teacher licensure requirements and professional development.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.