PTSA 2012-2013 Outstanding Educators of the Year

Each year the Copley-Fairlawn PTA selects building level teachers of the year and from that list selects the Educator of the Year for the district.
The 2012-2013 recipients are recognized below. The teacher descriptions are courtesy of the individual Copley-Fairlawn City Schools building PTA’s.

Jump to Jennifer Wade’s
write-up (Herberich)
Jump to Janet Okruch’s
write-up (Arrowhead)
Jump to Rebecca Leopold’s
write-up (Fort Island)
Jump to Brian Prucha’s
write-up (CFMS)

Andrew Stephens – CHS PTA Outstanding Educator of the Year

In addition to being Copley High School’s Outstanding Educator of the Year, Mr. Stephens was also selected as the Copley-Fairlawn City School’s DISTRICT Educator of the year.

As quoted by a former student, “Listen to a lecture, take a test, watch a beard grow, roll the dice – yes, roll the dice. All things one might experience when encountering Mr. Stephens.” This letter is advocating Mr. Andrew Stephens for the Copley Fairlawn City School District Outstanding Educator for the 2012 – 2013 academic year.

Mr. Stephens received a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio University in 1998, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. From the University of Akron, he received a Master of Science in Statistics in 2004. As Principle Aaron Sable writes,

“Andy has spent his entire career [from 1998 – present] as a math teacher at Copley High School. [As the Mathematics Curriculum Development Coordinator for CHS from 2008 to present], …he has helped to re-develop the math program to meet the needs of the new Common Core Curriculum and the students changing academic needs. Andy is a teacher that is compassionate towards his students. He dedicates his time and efforts to strive for the success of all of his students. Andy has become a ‘go to’ person for his peers and administrators when dealing with educational topics. His honest, straightforward, and open minded approach is what has made him a leader within the building. Andy is a true representation of what an educator should be.”

Keeping Copley on the cutting edge of innovative educational programs, Andy initiated and developed inquiry-based learning activities for many lessons with skills learned and honed through two separate several month long workshops in 2008 and 2009. In addition, he led and encouraged the math department with the development and adoption of new textbooks and curriculum, including use of the online program Math XL, as well as the re-institution of the Math Lab which is a duty period where math teachers would be available to struggling students who require extra help.

His teaching philosophy is simple, straightforward and humble. As he states,

“Everyone can learn. Everyone has something to learn. Oftentimes, we do not know what it is that we need to learn. Therefore we should learn as much as we can. Math teachers often get the question, ‘When will I ever need this?’ The most honest answer to that question I can give is ‘I don’t know.’ When people ask that question, I suspect that most of them already have the answer they want, and no answer I can provide about the different professions that use the different topics being studied will change that answer. Most students who ask the ‘When will I ever need this?’ question already have the answer ‘Never’. Only experience will change that answer. A teacher’s duty means to provide a meaningful experience for students. That experience for students might mean learning subject matter that does not interest them. That experience might mean having intellects challenged in new ways. That experience might mean failing sometimes. Most things in life worth knowing, worth understanding, worth mastering do not come easy. A teacher’s duty means to provide a nurturing experience for students. That experience will mean presenting subject matter in such a way that it comes ‘alive’, becomes useful. That experience will mean providing support outside of the classroom for students who are challenged beyond their current skill sets. That experience will mean helping students when they fail sometimes. A teacher’s duty also means admitting your failures as a teacher, and recognizing your areas for improvement because everyone has something to learn. Teachers will always need new techniques to present their material, and will have to learn how to deliver their understanding to students in new and meaningful ways. This will mean continual professional development, but most things in life worth teaching do not come easy.”

With all that being said, wouldn’t you relish your student’s education with Mr. Stephens as his or her math teacher? Wouldn’t you enjoy Mr. Stephens as your math teacher? As presented earlier, Andy is true to his philosophies by continuing to learn and grow as a teacher and a professional.

As quoted from a parent’s perspective who endorsed Mr. Stephens for Outstanding Educator, “As the chair of the math department, he presides over one of the strongest departments at Copley High School. He pioneered the AP Probability and Statistics class by teaching AP Probability and Statistics as an independent study class to highly motivated students. This paved the way for AP Probability and Statistics to be offered as a class every year to all interested students.”

In addition to his extraordinary classroom skills, Andy was an assistant coach of the Academic Challenge Team for many years in mathematics, science and history, as well as being a great mentor and role model for the students. While he was a coach, the team won a state championship and several cash prizes on the Academic Challenge television show. Andy relates to and motivates his students on a number of levels by finding new and interesting ways to incorporate mathematics into the classroom. In AP Statistics class, he bakes cookies and brownies, brings them to the classroom and incorporates this delicious addition into the lesson by discussing the probability of chocolate chips in the cookies. The “roll the dice” comment referred to at the beginning of this letter, is a system of homework collection. The students take turns and each day three numbers are selected. Andy then rolls the affectionately known “die of fate” and if one of the days numbers is rolled, then the homework for the day will be collected and graded. If not, the students keep the homework. To be fair, he collects at least two to three homework assignments a week to ensure students are keeping up with their work. My daughter informs me that, when given a movie title, no matter what genre, he can immediately give the year it was released. And finally, he supports the students in their extracurricular activities. For example, my son Nick partially filmed a video in his classroom. Again, I pose the question, who wouldn’t love to have this exceptional teacher?

He is also a published author of poetry and has worked as a disc jockey. For those who know quiet, mild mannered Mr. Stephens, this comes as quite a surprise. Andy is dedicated father and family man as well as an active church member.

In conclusion and as quoted by a former student, “Mr. Stephens is a role model for our students in his demeanor, language, respect for other people, and in his enthusiasm for the teaching and learning of mathematics. Mr. Stephens has a wonderful educational background and diversified life experiences that make him a successful teacher” and a real asset to Copley High School. It is with all this in mind that I advocate and encourage you to vote for Mr. Andrew Stephens as this year’s District representative for the Outstanding Educator Award.


Mrs. Jennifer Wade – Herberich PTA Outstanding Educator 2012/13

The 2012/13 recipient of the Herberich PTA Outstanding Educator is Mrs. Jennifer Wade. An educator in elementary and outdoor education, she has been teaching 3rd grade at Herberich for 13 years. A nominator eloquently encapsulated the following observations of Mrs. Wade as an educator:


“Mrs. Wade designs unique and innovative lessons to reach all learners. She begins by exploring and adapting a variety of teaching and learning strategies to ensure that the needs of every individual student in her classroom are met. Her instructional methods and assessments are research based and data driven. She knows her students – their personalities, their backgrounds and their potential. She helps students to develop autonomy and self-confidence through carefully planned, managed, and practiced groupings and independent learning activities. She allows students to take control of their learning through decision making and group leadership opportunities.

Mrs. Wade maintains high expectations for all students, motivating them through consistent positive reinforcement, always encouraging students to do their best and empowering them with learning successes. Mrs. Wade’s classroom is one in which students feel safe and comfortable to take risks in their learning; to chance volunteering an opinion or answer; to question and monitor their understanding. She engages in thoughtful, reflective, and flexible collaboration with fellow educators. She shares ideas, plans, strategies and materials freely. She also encourages parents and other volunteers to become part of her classroom, supporting and participating in her engaging, interactive learning environment. Mrs. Wade is an inspiration to children and adults alike.”

Highlights of Mrs. Wade professional background begin with having graduated with a Master’s Degree in Outdoor Education from Akron University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education 1-8 from Walsh University. She is a member of the OH H.S. Athletics Association, OH H.S. Coaches Association, and the USAV/Ohio Valley Region Official. Mrs. Wade was the head volleyball coach taking the team to the Final Four – State Tournament for the 1st and only time in school history. She may not have always had the most athletic teams, but her girls outperformed and overachieved because she believed in them and they believed in her. Along with teaching them the sport, many life lessons were discovered on a daily basis. Mrs. Wade has been recognized for her outstanding coaching with the Volleyball HS Coach of the Year Award by Touchdown Club and receiving twice the Suburban League Coach of the Year. She served on the Principle’s Advisory Committee, has supported Relay For Life events at Herberich, started running K-5 volleyball camps and even encouraged Herberich Choir to sing National Anthem at home volleyball matches each year to bridge the gap between elementary and high school student-athletes. She has been supportive of PTA over the years also having run volleyball after school program at Herberich. Amidst all this, she and her husband Tim are raising 2 children; 5 year old son Luke and 4 year old daughter Ella with a supportive family including her Grandparents and parents.

Mrs. Wade’s philosophy in her words “is aligned with Copley’s slogan, to reach EVERY STUDENT, EVERY DAY. This includes all students from every walk of life. I don’t celebrate mediocracy. I set high standards and find more than one way to climb the mountain…..all of this is possible when you show the students you believe in them, develop a mutual respect, and can relate to their world. Coming up with fun and creative ways to educate is a challenge but it’s one I take very seriously every day. I want every student to love coming to school and learning.” This indeed does happen as shared often by parents, students and her peers.

Herberich and Copley-Fairlawn schools are fortunate to have Mrs. Wade teaching in our district. We are proud of her selection as Herberich PTA Outstanding Educator for 2012/13.


Janet Okruch Arrowhead Outstanding Educator, 2012-2013

We are pleased to announce that Arrowhead’s 2012-2013 Educator of the Year is fourth-grade teacher Janet Okruch. Mrs. Okruch has only been at Arrowhead since 2009, but she has already made a big impression.


Parents say Mrs. Okruch is one of those teachers that you and your child will never forget because she treats students like they are her own and cares deeply for each one. One parent recalls Mrs. Okruch having tears in her eyes at the end of the last school year because she was not ready to let her students go to middle school. Mrs. Okruch knows that many students spend more of their waking hours with her than their families during the week, and takes that responsibility very seriously. “They become part of my extended family,” she says.

She always welcomes parents be a part of their students’ memories at Arrowhead. She has grown children and knows how fast the time goes, and is happy to accommodate parent involvement in special activities.

Her willingness to constantly improve as a teacher is evident in her participation in the school’s iPad pilot project this year. She took special training last summer to learn how to incorporate the devices into daily activities.

Mrs. Okruch is not only an excellent teacher, also a big supporter of PTA, frequently jumping in to help with projects. For example, she is a long-standing member of the school’s Nature Zone planning committee and can often be seen giving her time during the Nature Zone clean ups and other activities. She is also always willing to have her class help with extra projects, even if it adds things onto her plate. Her class can often be found watering plants inside and outside of the greenhouse and doing extra jobs like designing the flyer for a 4th grade legacy project fundraiser.

Mrs. Okruch has had to relocate several times to keep up with her husband’s career as a college football coach (including University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, University of Colorado, University of Illinois, and most recently, the University of Akron) and she says she always joins the parent-teacher organization wherever she is.

“I know what a gift PTA is to teachers and students,” she says. “Working together, we are able to bring out the best in each student.”

Arrowhead’s PTA feels the same way about her – she’s a real gift!


Rebecca Leopold Fort Island PTA Outstanding Educator of the Year

Rebecca Leopold is the epitome of a great teacher and is considered to be one of Fort Island’s best kept secrets! Rebecca Leopold has been teaching for ten years and all her experience has been at Fort Island. Since her undergraduate degree, Ms. Leopold has earned her Reading Endorsement and her Master’s Degree in Reading Specialization. Ms. Leopold goes the extra mile for each of her students, but does it efficiently with the perfect balance of strength and sweetness making her one of the most approachable teachers in the school for both students and parents. Ms. Leopold is one of the most individualistic teachers with the ability to maintain clear order in her classroom while caring about and knowing how to address each child’s needs to ensure a successful third grade year. One family wrote, “Ms Leopold is a very caring and approachable teacher who pays special attention to our son’s learning requirements allowing him to succeed and make the academic year easier.” Ms. Leopold believes that education for children needs to be accommodating and challenging at the same time. So she strives to challenge her students to think creatively to enhance their learning.


Ms. Leopold keeps her students and parents well informed through her weekly newsletters, emails, phone calls, and meetings. Another family commented, “My daughter loved being a part of her classroom, and under her guidance, gained confidence that continues today. She encourages each child to reach their potential and demonstrated a true love of learning!” Another family wrote, “Ms. Leopold has the unique ability to make each child feel like he/she is her favorite student expecting the best from them all.” The students love her because she is kind, always willing to help, and makes learning fun. She creates fantastic programs in the classroom to teach reading and math with incentives for the kids that keep them wanting to do their best and try again.

Outside of school, Ms. Leopold is a yearly Fort Island PTA member and supports PTA programs and fundraisers. She is a WHYS member in Wadsworth City Schools and has been on different committees through her son’s school. Last year, for example, Ms. Leopold chaired the silent auction and raffle for a fundraiser at his school. Ms. Leopold does all this without fanfare showing she truly loves her students and all children. Unless you’ve had a child in her class, you might not know how deserving Ms. Leopold is of this award; therefore, Rebecca Leopold earned Fort Island’s Educator of the Year Award for 2012-2013.


Brian Prucha – CFMS PTA Outstanding Educator of the Year

The Copley-Fairlawn Middle School PTSA chose Brian Prucha as our Outstanding Educator for 2012-2013. He is a local Ohio boy who attended Cuyahoga Heights High School and earned a double minor in Construction Management and Virtual Simulation from Ohio Northern University.


This is Mr. Prucha’s 9th year of teaching at Copley-Fairlawn Middle School. During those 9 years of teaching 7th and 8th grade Industrial Tech and 7th grade computer technology he also has coached Middle School Football for 6 years, the 7th grade girls basketball team for 5 years, and the freshman boys baseball for 2 years.

Mr. Prucha helped initiate the following programs at the Middle School: The Robotics Program where students built and race remote control cars, the Industrial Technology Club which is an after school club where students are able to build woodworking projects, and the Soap Box Derby Challenge where he filled out a Foundation Grant for the purchase of 2 cars for the soapbox derby gravity challenge. Students then built and race the derby cars against other middle schools from all over the United States at the Akron Derby Downs Track. He ran a fundraiser to collect money to plant a tree in honor of teacher and coach Stuart Tolle, which now stands outside by the baseball fields at Copley-Fairlawn Middle School.

Mr. Prucha has been involved or supported the PTSA or CFMS by:

Helping hang motivational signed throughout the Middle School, he helped fix or cut numerous items for PTA like the a new door for the PTA popcorn machine when it was found broken. He built a new podium for the Middle school, built a display box for the American Flag that hangs in the Middle school office, he helped the Phys. Ed. Department create the boards for the Eric Connor Award, he built shelving units for the Library, he built plyometric boxes for the Volleyball Team which are different height and size boxes used for jumping. He built Corn Hole boards for the High School Phys. Ed. Department, and helped the M.S. art department built benches for the courtyard, and built 2 spirit benches outside the new gym. I think Mr. Prucha likes to build things.

Mr. Prucha has been a member of The Industrial Technology Education Association and The Ohio Technology Education Association. He was inducted as a member of Epsilon Pi Tau, which is an honor society for professionals in the field of Technology. In his spare time Mr. Prucha volunteers for The Habitat for Humanity.

Mr. Prucha’s nominator said “that he does his job well. Both of my kids speak highly of Mr. Prucha. I remember last year my daughter saying to me that Mr. Prucha does a great job at explaining how to make something. He volunteers to go on the 7th grade Camp Christopher field trip and organizes the tie-dye tee shirt making for all the students on the trip.”

Mr. Prucha believes that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and stimulating atmosphere in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. It is his desire as an educator to help students meet their fullest potential in these areas by providing an environment that is safe, supports risk-taking, and invites the sharing of ideas. He also believes that a teacher’s role is to guide, providing access to information rather than acting as the primary source of information. For students to build on their knowledge, they need the opportunity to discover for themselves and practice skills in authentic real-life situations. His goal is to provide students’ access to hands-on activities, which allows them to discover new and useful information. He says the ultimate goal of an educator is to prepare our students for the future and give them the skills they need to become successful adults. Every child deserves a chance and a fair opportunity to become successful in school and life.

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