As the 2012-13 school year begins, we thought we’d get to know a few of the terrific teachers out there who make our children’s lives richer….
Dan and Beth Jax
Bexley Middle School
Bexley Middle School teacher Dan Jax always laughs when students ask whether he is married to fellow science teacher Beth Jax.
Beth Jax — his daughter — is less amused.
“I can’t even joke about that,” she said.
Father and daughter do, however, agree that teaching the same subject at the same school is a wonderful opportunity. Working together has been a bonding experience that also has helped them grow as teachers, they said.
“We have a lot of fun,” said Beth Jax, who graduated from Bexley High School in 1998. “We have enriched the experience for the kids because we have fun.”
Their teaching styles are different but complement each other, they said.
“We have influenced each other,” Beth Jax said. “I have helped him stay young and understand what it’s like to be in middle school. He has greatly influenced me in curriculum development.”
Dan Jax has been with the district for more than 30 years and said he appreciates his daughter’s enthusiasm for her work.
“She definitely energizes me and makes me think about things differently,” he said.
In addition to team-teaching one class, the Jaxes serve as advisors for the school’s environment club and work with students on special aquaponics projects. The aquaponics tank includes fish and plants and helps students understand how ecosystems function.
Both of the Jaxes have a gift for making students want to learn, said Harley Williams, the principal at Bexley Middle School.
“It’s not what you know,” he said. “It’s how excited you can get students to want to know what you know.”
Saint Mary Catholic School
The library at Saint Mary School in German Village is small but that doesn’t stop librarian Annie Ruefle from thinking big.
Each year, Ruefle organizes a school-wide reading project that involves every person in the building. Teachers incorporate the theme in their lesson plans. Ruefle organizes art projects and programs based on the theme. Students construct a piece of public art that adorns the school’s front lawn.
“I want kids here to bump up against reading all day long,” said Ruefle, who just finished her 26th year as a school librarian. “We fill up their world here with books.”
She devotes herself to creating an environment where reading and getting excited about books is the norm. She hosts book clubs and invites kids to join her “Reading Hall of Fame.”
“At some schools, a few kids read,” she said. “Here, everybody reads.”
Ruefle, who handles the library programs for children in preschool through eighth grade, said she wants children to have a good foundation of reading because it helps students do better academically and makes them more interesting people.
Ruefle has made readers out of Alyssa Hardenbergh’s two sons, Samuel, 11, and Finn, 10.
“I wouldn’t say they started out with a great love of reading,” the Columbus resident said. “It’s really just been a process. Annie has so many different things that really encourage reading.”
Hardenbergh said she’s amazed by “the number of things on a daily basis coming out of our library that touches our kids.”
When she tells parents of children who attend other schools about Saint Mary’s library, they are “dumbfounded,” she added.
“I do a lot of projects,” said Ruefle, who published a book about library programming. “When you read about something and then create something, it’s a double whammy of learning.”
Mansion Day School
Running a school has taught Dee James many things.
The head of school at Mansion Day School, which is located in Columbus’ Woodland Park neighborhood, has seen firsthand how rigorous academics combined with a nurturing environment creates the foundation for lifelong learning.
James also has learned something about how the racial make-up of her students impacts their education. As the private school, which serves students in preschool through fifth-grade, has become increasingly African-American, she has seen positive impacts. The school population “has elevated the confidence and cultural competency,” of her students, she said.
Although James never set out to create a primarily African–American student body, this “unanticipated bonus,” is exciting, she said.
“We don’t teach them that they’re better than anybody,” James said. “We teach them they are no less than anybody.”
James also has come to understand the benefits of creating a school “where children feel celebrated and accepted on a daily basis. I’m gratified with what we have achieved. We have so many success stories of children going to college and receiving scholarships.”
Parent Simone Drake likes the school’s atmosphere and academics. Mansion Day School promotes “critical thinking and helps children apply what they’re thinking,” said the Powell resident, who has two children at the school.
She also appreciates that the teachers have high expectations for Seth, who is going into third grade, and Isaac, who will be a first-grader in the fall.
“I like knowing my kids are going to be pushed because their teachers care and can see their potential,” she said.