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PROFILE: A lasting impression

Teachers, if you don’t believe you are making a difference in your students’ lives, please read on.

Bob Leith. Marge Albrink. Murray Greenstein. Jackie Walker. Bob McCollister. Linda Mann. Susan Sheridan. Sue Green. Jim Harrison.

These are just a small sampling of the names area residents gave to the following question: Who were your most influential teachers?

Cindy Neal went all the way back to grade school. Her answers were Anita Schoener and Nevada Bennett. Neal, a 1986 Ironton High School grad, is in her 12th year as an intervention specialist in the Portsmouth school district.

“I wanted to be a teacher because of them,” she said, adding that Schoener, her first grade teacher, set the tone for her academic career. Bennett was memorable, she said, because she genuinely cared about her students.

“I just hope I can be the kind of teacher to my students that she was to me,” Neal said.

Sister Mary Alice stood out to 1957 Saint Joseph High School grad Joe Holtzapfel.

“The thing I remember most about her was her teaching us about God and family. She got us all started in the right direction in life,” Holtzapfel said.

For Chuck O’Neill, the answer to this question wouldn’t change if you gave him another lifetime to think it over.

He replied with a passionate e-mail describing the most dedicated teacher he has ever known: Bob Leith.

“Bob was a tremendous influence on me. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him as a teacher and a man,” O’Neill began, noting that Leith not only made history come alive in the classroom, he also taught young men and women about respect, honor, integrity and humility.

“He wasn’t just teaching us history,” O’Neill stated with obvious fervency. “He was teaching us how to be better people and for that, I am eternally grateful.”

Another former student enamored of Leith is Burlington native Chris Saunders.

“Occasionally, I talk to elementary school kids about the Civil War,” Saunders said. “When I do, I use his ‘story telling’ technique and have had wonderful results. The teachers wonder how I keep the kids engaged for so long. It’s because of Mr. Leith.”

Leith has many more fans, including Molly Sheridan Young.

“I loved Bob Leith,” Young said. “He was by far the most interesting teacher I had in high school and college.”

“I also loved Susan Sheridan and Marge Albrink,” she continued. “I still call Susan for advice on punctuation and the last time I called her she told me the answer but said, ‘let me call Marge Albrink and double check!’”

Rhonda Gillenwater Hollbrook listed Mary Jo Frazer (formerly Bruce), John Miller, Reggie Arden, Murray Greenstein and Sue Green. Angie Wilson Shannon offered Linda Mann, her first grade teacher nearly 35 years ago at Whitwell Elementary, as did April Brown Knipp.

“She was always kind and was willing to take the time to help each and every child in the class,” Knipp said of Mann. “She is just a great person.”

To Tom Murphy, IHS math teacher Sherman Blagg was a difference maker. “He instilled self-confidence in my abilities and made me understand that I am responsible for my own learning,” Murphy said. “I never wanted to let him down.”

Georgia Triplett’s care and compassion made an indelible mark on Trena Fuller Haynes, who now teaches the talented and gifted students in the Rock Hill school district.

When Haynes won an Eddy Award in sixth grade, Triplett was just as excited as her student. “She ran in the room, shouting, ‘Where’s my little Eddy winner?’ and gave me a big hug,” Haynes recalled. “That meant more to me than the trophy. I knew she was proud of me.”

Jeff Handley, Judy Gruber, Dale Royce, Dwight Vanatta, Betty Lewis, Priscilla Ori, Sue Ball, Flo Washburn, Betty Craddock, Adelaide Conley, Ralph Falls, Dulcie Lambert, Mary Ann Philabaun, Marian Thomas, Pat Sheridan and Mike Morgan were all mentioned by those who were compelled to provide feedback about their most influential teachers.

Certainly, some very influential teachers were inadvertently omitted from this list. Good teachers, however, know who they are.

They make a difference in the lives of their students on a daily basis.

And that difference can be life changing.

“When I decided to be a teacher, I wanted to be just like her,” April Brown Knipp said of Linda Mann.

How much more of a difference can you make than that?