The ThisWeek Community News reporters who cover central Ohio schools get to meet some amazing and inspiring people as part of their work. Columbus Parent asked them to share a few of these people with our readers.

The ThisWeek Community News reporters who cover central Ohio schools get to meet some amazing and inspiring people as part of their work. Columbus Parent asked them to share a few of these people with our readers.

JASON FINE, UPPER ARLINGTON

Watching his child struggle with the tics of Tourette's syndrome is more difficult than living with it himself, said Jason Fine, principal at Upper Arlington's Barrington Elementary School.

Fine has made no secret of his battle with the neurological disorder.

"I share my story with whoever will listen," he said.

When his 10-year-old daughter Madeline also was diagnosed with the disease, Fine stepped up his efforts to share positive stories of his experiences.

"The more I can educate others about the disorder, then the easier it will be for people like my daughter to navigate through the difficult journey ahead," he said. "As a principal, I often share my story with parents that are searching for answers about a child that may be exhibiting tics or other learning difficulties."

Some of the "bumps in the road" Fine said he encountered in college included getting kicked out of freshman English for disrupting a professor's class. He also had to endure playing basketball in a rival high school gymnasium packed with students wearing T-shirts that mocked Tourette's syndrome.

Fine has run three marathons to raise awareness and funds to find a cure.

"The more knowledge we can extend about the disorder, then the easier acceptance will be for those battling with Tourette's," he said.

-Pamela Willis

................................................................................................. PAULETTE PETTIFORD, ETNA TOWNSHIP

"Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

So goes the unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service mail carriers, present and past.

But would the same be true if they were asked to volunteer for the job?

Paulette Pettiford, a volunteer at Kae Avenue Elementary School, would likely be first in line. That's because she too stands in all sorts of weather to help students at Kae Avenue Elementary School in Whitehall cross safely into class each morning.

And she doesn't get paid a cent to do it.

"She has really become part of our family at Kae Avenue," said Alissa Putnam, the school's principal. "We are lucky to have her."

Pettiford is the grandmother to three at the school, and became aware of safety concerns when walking one of her little ones into kindergarten the first day of the new school year. It immediately became clear to her that there were some pedestrian concerns, and if someone didn't intervene soon a child would be hurt.

Because Whitehall is home to five new schools over the past four years, new drop-off and pick-up routines were established. And that often means drivers must be patient - not always a good mix.

So on day No. 2 of the 2013-14 school year, Pettiford volunteered to serve as the school's crossing guard – a job many districts have a hard time finding anyone to fill on a consistent basis.

"She is there for the students," said Putnam. She is there for the parents. And she is dedicated to keeping everyone safe, every morning, rain or shine, cold and snow – and everything in-between."

-Deborah M. Dunlap

................................................................................................. KONNER BARR, GAHANNA

Gahanna Lincoln High School drum major Konner Barr dazzles audiences every time he picks up the baton.

Barr, a junior, is working toward his goal of becoming drum major for the Ohio State University's Best Damn Band in the Land.

And he's well on his way.

Barr was one of two drum majors who performed with the All-Ohio State Fair Band (AOSFB) at the Ohio State Fair last summer.

"He's in line to lead OSU," said Greg Eyer, drum major coordinator at the fair. "He's being groomed. This is the stepping stone to OSU."

Gahanna Band Director Rob Cebriak said Barr, a trumpet player in concert season, is outstanding.

He said Barr has dedicated himself to twirling, and it shows.

"He really lights up the crowd," Cebriak said. "He's something special. The student section goes berserk for him."

-Marla K. Kuhlman

................................................................................................. DEE MARTINDALE, REYNOLDSBURG

A Reynoldsburg elementary school principal is more likely to be dressed in muddy boots and tromping through wetlands with students than sitting behind her desk at Summit Road STEM Elementary School.

Dee Martindale also has worked aloft on the school roof for a day and spent a lunch hour duct-taped to the cafeteria wall - to fulfill a promise to students after they collected more than 35,000 box tops for a fundraiser.

"The kids came up to me and fed me chicken nuggets," she said.

The school has obtained more than $170,000 in grants from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to plant and clean up the wetlands area in the back quarter of the campus. Two yurt eco-labs on the property are well-equipped science labs, where students may gather samples from the wetlands and take them inside for observations.

Martindale said she encourages her teachers to "get creative with classroom space."

"As adults, we don't look forward to sitting at a desk all day long, so how can we expect 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds to want to do it?" Martindale asked.

-Pamela Willis

................................................................................................. BETTY BROWN, WHITEHALL

When it comes to being of both healthy body and mind, Bexley schools volunteer Betty Brown tackles both, setting a good example for students and parents alike.

At Bexley's first Family Fit & Fun Expo in 2013, Brown was everywhere, all afternoon. She was organizing raffle prizes in the cafeteria. She was making sure the guest vendors had everything they needed. She welcomed participants out on the sunny Cassingham Elementary School playground, near where students were scrambling up the climbing wall.

Brown is the kind of person who not only comes up with the cool idea, she gets the job done. As a member of the Bexley School District's health and wellness committee, she helped host last fall's expo that encouraged young people to spend quality time with the adults in their lives and get involved in healthy activities.

She has also taken a favorite hobby one step further, and spearheaded a knitting club for elementary and middle school students. Each week last year, between 15 and 20 Cassingham students spent their lunch hour learning to knit, with some creating headbands to donate to an effort to relieve hunger. They were guided by the adult volunteers that Brown recruited, coordinated and encouraged.

Headbands for Hunger recently raised more than $1,000 to support the community's Summer Food Program, providing groceries to families when free lunch is unavailable

-Amy Thompson

................................................................................................. RICK ARMSTRONG, WORTHINGTON

"It's never too cold to get on your bike and be active!"

With those words, Worthington's Granby Elementary School physical education teacher Rick Armstrong opened the new Gator Bike Park last November.

The quarter-mile of hills, ladder bridges, rocks, dips and curves challenges everyone from toddlers with training wheels to older residents who live in the neighborhoods around the Hard Road school.

"That's the great thing about Rick: He is including the whole community," said Worthington Schools spokeswoman Vicki Gnezda.

Volunteers built the path, but it was Armstrong's idea that got it started and keeps everyone moving.

Next, a pump track - basically a roller coaster for bikes - will be added.

"Phase two will be the wow factor," Armstrong said.

-Candy Brooks

................................................................................................. SUSAN CAUDILL, PICKERINGTON

Inspired by her students and staff, a Pickerington junior high school principal has sought to embolden those who've supported her in a fight against breast cancer.

Last fall, Ridgeview Junior High's principal Susan Caudill hardly took time to blink after being told she'd face a double mastectomy, four months of chemotherapy and 10 years of maintenance treatment.

That is, until nearly 600 of her students and another 80 Ridgeview teachers and staff members surprised her Nov. 1, 2013, her last day at school before surgery. They staged an assembly in which they donned T-shirts emblazoned with a pink statement of solidarity: "Team Caudill."

"I had heard some of the staff would be wearing them, but when I walked in I had no idea all my students were doing it," Caudill said. "I had no idea all of the staff was doing it.

"I was choked up when I walked in. It was the most overwhelming feeling of support. I love Ridgeview."

The 42-year-old principal responded by promising the Ridgeview community – and anyone else who inquired – that she would win her battle and return to work as soon as possible.

She also spoke publicly to promote regular cancer screenings among adult women and others while spreading a message of positive thinking and hope.

"Don't be pessimistic," Caudill said. "(Before I left) I wanted my kids to know that no matter what you face in life, you need to face it with a positive attitude and courage."

Shortly after her surgery, Caudill said she was walking four miles a day to build strength and stamina, and she vowed to overcome the most cumbersome challenge of her life.

"There's not a doubt in my mind," she said. "It's all good."

The cancer, Caudill added, has "messed with the wrong person."

-Nate Ellis