Looking Sideways – Grads return for school careers

Mark Leutke

Jack Smith is the unofficial good-will ambassador for retired faculty and staff of the Sylvania Schools. The former principal and assistant for 31 years (and teacher before that) recently pointed out a phenomenon that has meaning as our kids return to classes this month.

Turns out that some 125 of the teaching and non-teaching employees who will be greeting our students are former district graduates themselves. At more than ten percent of the total, that’s an amazingly high rate.
Dr. Veronica Motley, district superintendent, endorses the value of home-grown teachers. “It’s wonderful to have Sylvania graduates return to the district as employees, where they make a difference in the lives of the next generation of students. It is evidence of a healthy district and strong community here in Sylvania, where multiple generations choose to live, work and give back.”

That said, it seems some of the employees I talked with didn’t actually intend to work in Sylvania. Southview graduate Brittany Robbins, who is in her 13th year with the district, takes over a dual role as assistant principal at Maplewood and Hill View elementaries this month. She first applied for entry-level positions in the Cleveland and Columbus areas (and even the Carolinas) with hopes of finding a physical education/softball coaching position after earning a degree at the University of Toledo.

“The Sylvania job was a matter of happenstance,” Brittany explained. “For the summer right after graduation, I was in charge of all the umpires for Sylvania Recreation softball leagues. Ed Eding, Sylvan elementary principal at the time, had two daughters in the league, and I ran into him at a game I was umping. He tipped me off about a district opening, I applied, and was hired to teach at Hill View.”

Now, Brittany is backing-up her enthusiasm for the district in a personal way, her son starts kindergarten this month at Central Trail. “I’m not sure the community knows all the amazing opportunities that our schools provide. Plus, the district offers a diverse, real-world experience. I want my son to grow up around that, to be well-rounded and learn from people from other cultures and backgrounds.”

Northview math teacher Heather Tussing had a sideways entry into our district, too. After graduating from Southview, she earned a degree in exercise science from Eastern Michigan … graduating summa cum laude and named a scholar athlete in each of her four years. Working an entry-level job running a corporate fitness facility at the old Jeep Plant, she randomly encountered Larry Jones, the legendary Northview athletic director. “He asked me to coach NV gymnastics, and I really felt at home being in the school while coaching. That led me to get a master’s degree in secondary education mathematics, and I started teaching here in 2001,” said Heather. “I started at Northview for 12 years, moved to McCord for eight, and came back to Northview last year.” She added, “I love telling my students that I was actually a Stranahan Bulldog, McCord Tartan, and Southview Cougar. I even pulled out my old SV varsity jacket to prove it!”

Yet another late-arrival to the district is Justin Hittler, who traveled the world and ran several successful business after graduating from Northview in 2003. Five years ago, he became one of the nearly 300 non-teaching employees of the district. He works in the support services department, keeping grounds, facilities and athletic fields in shape, and is also is president of the local Ohio Association of Public School Employees union. “Historically, it’s been hard to get a non-teaching job here; when the opportunity presented itself, they were looking for someone with a very specific skill set,” Justin said. “I filled that niche. Once I was hired, I felt extremely grateful for the opportunity. I get to help the public and give back to the community every day.”


Of course, other grads were more straightforward about their desire to work in Sylvania. Said Southview product Aaron Joplin, “I always wanted to come back and work here. While teaching in another district, I was browsing the employment page and found an open position. Even though tons of people would apply, I figured what do I have to lose?” It turned out well. Aaron has been working for seven years at Arbor Hills Junior High teaching seventh grade honors social studies and serving as athletic director.

“Sylvania has been a positive experience ever since I came back,” Aaron said. “Our administration knows how much time we put into our students, and they are supportive in our efforts to do what is best. My experience here continues to bring excitement and hope that I am influencing my students just like my former teachers did for me.”

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