The New Carlisle Rotary Club named Melinda McKibben, Joyce Ochs and Kristie Talley as their Outstanding Teachers for 2018.

The recipients were awarded at the club’s May 1 meeting.

McKibben has been a kindergarten teacher at Park Layne Elementary since 2013. She served as a Title One Aide for 17 years before pursuing her teaching degree. Once she received her degree, she left the Tecumseh district because there were no openings. Two years later, an opening occurred, and she was the first choice to fill that opening.

“Melinda is a natural teacher,” said Karyl Strader, Park Layne Principal and the one who nominated McKibben for the award. “Her first priority is always her students. She cares deeply for each and every student, and for each student fully and wholly. She is always willing to come up with a new strategy or come up with a new behavior plan or incentive for individual students. Her love for teaching is apparent in all she does.“

Marianne Rinaldo, psychologist, added, “Melinda is the most kind, positive, and supportive teacher and colleague! She creates an environment for her students every day, that is calm, welcoming, predictable, and focused on growth and learning. Her main priority is always the best interest of her students. Melinda is flexible and particularly adept at differentiating instruction and interventions so that all students experience growth and success. Melinda’s teaching style and structure in her classroom fosters student development of academic skills in ways that are developmentally appropriate and create enthusiasm for learning at very your ages. Melinda is a dedicated and highly proficient teacher, a leader, and an overall stellar individual who impacts students and staff at Park Layne Elementary in such a positive way!”

“I’m not your traditional teacher,” said McKibben upon receiving her award. She said she was a stay-at-home mom until she was asked if she wanted a Title One position. “I thought, ‘Great! I can be a mom and be with the kids during the day.’”

That led to a full-time position as an Aide, until she was urged to seek her teaching degree. She earned her degree in 2011.

Joyce Ochs has worked at Northwestern Local Schools since 1993.

“Joyce does an outstanding job of assessing prior knowledge and targeting areas of need in small guided instructional groups,” said Heather Swensen, one of Ochs’ colleagues. “She plans learning tasks that are appropriate and accessible to all learners. She uses various forms of formative assessment in order to plan these learning tasks. These serve as a guide for her as she moves through the instructional process. She knows why she is doing what she is doing and how to know if what she did impacted student learning.”

“I knew I wanted to make a difference, so I set out to become a nurse,” said Ochs in her remarks. She said she changed her goals when she received a divine revelation from God, saying “I don’t do blood.” That was when she decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a teacher.

“I’ve taught first, second and fourth grade,” she said. “I’ve found that kids, no matter the age, are all the same, just a little bigger. Every child needs to be validated, loved and challenged to become better than they were yesterday.”

Kristie Talley has been a guidance counselor at Tecumseh High School since 1999.

“Although Kristie is not a teacher at Tecumseh High School, she definitely exemplifies the spirit of the award,” said THS Principal Ivan Gehret. “Kristie is one of the best guidance counselors I have had the pleasure of working with throughout my career. Due to her knowledge, dedication and experience, she has gained the respect of guidance counselors at Tecumseh Local and throughout the county. Kristie has fostered collaborations with colleges and universities working closely with their admissions, financial aid, and recruitment offices in order to support our students making informed college decisions.”

Another nominator wrote, “Kristie works diligently with students to help ensure they prepare for graduation requirements and plan accordingly for post-graduation options. She routinely meets with students about scholarship opportunities and assists when help is needed completing those often overwhelming college applications. She keeps students whom are under her charge on her radar and meets with them when “red flags” appear, such as dropping grades, or behavior changes happening with a student.”

Talley said that when she was notified of the award, “I was very honored, but I also thought I’m not a teacher. Teachers work hard, and I have the utmost respect for them.”

She said she started with Springfield City Schools, but after she took time off to have her second child, she found that they had no positions appropriate for her. She did interviews and was eventually hired by Tecumseh.

The Outstanding Teachers received the symbolic “School Bell” as a visible and lasting tribute to their ability to teach. They also received $500 for their own personal use.

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