ELKHART— Five individuals who have made an impact on the lives of children were honored Monday evening by the Elkhart Education Foundation.
The honorees were recognized at a Celebration Tree Dedication at the J.C. Rice Educational Service Center in a room full of family, friends and colleagues.
Their names were placed on an apple-shaped ornament and were added to the Celebration Tree, a sculpture currently installed in the lobby area at the district’s administrative office. All but one of the recipients were honored in memorial this year.
This was the fourth year that names have been added to the tree. The tree is dedicated to former elementary school teacher the late Margi Wood. Donations in her honor have helped establish the EEF and supported many of the programs, said Ashley Boling Molyneaux, executive director of the foundation.
“This tree represents the roots that education provides for our young people,” Boling Molyneaux told the crowd gathered for the dedication. “It represents the fruits of public education: our students, teachers, administrators and community members that recognize and value preparing our next generation for success.”
Also speaking at the ceremony was Superintendent Steve Thalheimer, who talked about the significance of the Celebration Tree.
“All of us who work in education know that over time we keep nurturing, and we keep pouring into and allocating those resources and putting in our time and over and over again we see the results of that, sometimes sooner than others and sometimes after extraordinary efforts and sometimes after the simplest gesture,” he said. “So in all of those ways the people we’re acknowledging today have been those proponents of public education and have been major advocates for Elkhart Community Schools and for that I thank them.”
Honored this year were the following:
• Paul Stemm, was an assistant principal for 22 years at West Side Middle School, where he was also a teacher for 13 years, guidance counselor and the athletic director for 10 years. “Paul’s dedication to Elkhart Community Schools and to the city as a whole is a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten,” Boling Molyneaux said. “This apple is a small recognition for his dedicated service to the school district.”
• Nancy Gard, was a teacher at Mary Feeser Elementary School. Her “outstanding teaching skills” were recognized by the Elkhart Jaycees in 1969, when she was named Outstanding Young Educator, just two years into her education, Boling Molyneaux said. “Nancy’s students remember her gentle manner, and her desire to help her students do well, grow and achieve,” Boling Molyneaux added.
• Liam Lane, a 4-year-old who lost his battle to a host of complex medical issues in July. His mother, Kaytee, is a teacher at Elkhart Memorial High School and thus “Liam was important to the whole Elkhart Community Schools family,” Boling Molyneaux said. “We continue to hold the Lane family in our prayers and hope this apple is one way of Liam’s legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of so many.”
• Jan Riblet, was a teacher at Beardsley Elementary School early in her career before having children. Boling Molyneaux said was an avid volunteer in the schools, taking time to tutor and read to students until her death at 80 years old, Boling Molyneaux said.
• Bob Woods, was honored for his recent retirement after 47 years of working at Elkhart Community Schools serving in many different capacities as teacher, administrator and district level leader, Boling Molyneaux said. “It is fitting that his name will hang on the Margi Woods Memorial Tree, named after his late wife, a long time educator in her own right,” Boling Molyneaux said.
Anyone interested in adding people to the Celebration Tree can fill out a form available on the foundation’s website.