By Matt Clevenger
For Miami Valley Today
PIQUA — Representatives from ten Miami County high schools and the Upper Valley Career Center gathered in Piqua Tuesday, May 14, honoring graduates and outstanding educators at the 26th annual Excellence in Education dinner.
Organized by the Miami County Educational Service Center (ESC), the dinner gives local valedictorians and salutatorians an opportunity to recognize the teachers or instructors that helped them succeed. This year’s dinner was held at A Learning Place, and featured entertainment provided by the Covington High School Jazz Band.
“It is probably one of my favorites of the year,” ESC governing board vice-president Myrna Yoder said of the event. “What we have here is the cream of the crop; the parents who have brought you and made you who you are, and the school systems that have taught you, and the favorite teachers who have helped you along the way.”
Troy High School salutatorian Megan Malott, who plans to attend Ohio State university majoring in English, honored English teacher Brian Woerner. “Every time I see students walk by, he always gives them a smile and says something encouraging,” Malott said.
Troy High School had two valedictorians this year; valedictorian Josalyn Abrams honored English teacher Julia Watson and valedictorian Zachary Niswonger honored geometry teacher Jaqui Lehmkuhl. Abrams plans to attend the University of Dayton majoring in chemical engineering; Niswonger plans to attend Ohio State University majoring in chemical engineering.
Piqua High School salutatorian Samantha Martin, who plans to attend Ohio State University majoring in biochemistry, honored band teacher Mitch Mahaney. Piqua High School valedictorian Tessa Arnett honored teacher Kathy Hoying. Arnett plans on attending Bowling Green State University majoring in Asian studies.
Troy Christian High School salutatorian Michael Whidden and valedictorian William Gilfillen both honored math teacher Paul Ruland. “He’s an excellent teacher,” Gilfillen said. “He’s always willing to help students.”
Gilfillen plans to attend Miami University to study accounting. Whidden plans to attend Miami University studying political science and economics.
Miami East High School co-salutatorian Marie Cook, who will attend the University of Toldeo majoring in biochemistry and pre-medicine, honored math teacher Meghan Arnold. Miami East High School co-salutatorian Caitlyn Harris honored English teacher Kalyn Hollatz; Harris plans to attend Wright State University medical school.
Miami East High School valedictorian Kyah Rowley honored chemistry teacher David Scott. Rowley has been attending Wright State University for the past two years, and plans to continue at Wright State after graduation.
Tipp City High School honored two students graduating Summa Cum Laude; Lunden Mason honored English teacher Aimee Noel, and Leena Vyas honored teachers Annette Malott. Mason plans to attend the Northwestern University School of Journalism.
Vyas plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania majoring in engineering.
Milton-Union High School salutatorian Annalise Bennett plans to attend Miami University majoring in early childhood education. Bennett honored her history teacher and soccer coach Andy Grudich.
Milton-Union High School valedictorian Hallie Berberich plans to attend Miami University, seeking a degree in accountancy. Berberich honored business teacher Tracy Aukerman. “I’ve always enjoyed her class and looked forward to it,” Berberich said. “She’s the type of teacher who truly cares about her students, and always pushes them to be their best.”
Newton High School had two valedictorians this year; valedictorian Halli Gipe honored history teacher Missy Meyer. Valedictorian Michaela Kirk honored teacher Chrissy Kenworthy.
Gipe plans to attend Wright State University majoring in nursing; Kirk also plans to attend Wright State University majoring in early childhood education.
Upper Valley Career Center recognized top scholars Colt Frazier and Taylor Williams. Frazier honored math teacher Tricia Brautigam; Williams honored teacher Megan Flanagan.
Covington High School had four valedictorians this year. Valedictorian Ian Benedict, who plans to attend Ohio University majoring in aviation, honored science teacher Kim Dunn. Valedictorian Seth Daly plans to attend Miami University with a double major in statistics and data analytics; Daly honored history teacher Chuck Cantrell.
Covington High School valedictorian Elizabeth Schafer honored teacher and band director Jessica Moore. Covington High School valedictorian Gray Harshbarger honored math teacher Steve Dunn. Schafer plans to attend Ohio State university majoring in animal science; Harshbarger plans to attend the University of Cincinnati, majoring in business.
Bradford High School had two salutatorians this year. Salutatorian Bianca Keener honored guidance counselor Wendy Ray. Elisa Martinez honored teacher Sharon Moore.
After graduation, Keener plans to attend Wright State University; Martinez plans to attend Ohio Northern University majoring in Forensic biology.
Bradford High School valedictorian Macie Reck honored math teacher Rocco Latino. After graduation, Reck plans to attend Indiana University East, majoring in nursing.
Bethel High School valedictorian Rachel Sebastian honored teacher and volleyball coach Lauren Siebenaller. Sebastian plans to attend the University of Dayton, majoring in applied mathematical economics.
Bethel High School salutatorian Abigail Cartwright honored her biology teacher Mindy Gatrell. “Mrs. Gatrell is always encouraging and supportive, and I feel like I can talk to her about anything,” Cartwright said. “She really cares about her students. A large portion of my interest in science is due to Mrs. Gatrell’s teaching.”
Cartwright plans to attend Miami University.