When Julie Mizer arrived in the Hilliard City School District as a student teacher in 1998, she soon learned it was a place she never wants to leave.

When Julie Mizer arrived in the Hilliard City School District as a student teacher in 1998, she soon learned it was a place she never wants to leave.

"It's truly a family," said Mizer, an eighth-grade math teacher at Hilliard Memorial Middle School.

Mizer, 40, has helped her students master math since Memorial, a former sixth-grade building and high school, became a middle school in 2001. She taught full time for two years at the neighboring Heritage Middle School before moving to Memorial.

Her student teaching assignment was a case of luck of the draw for Mizer, who at the time was completing her master's degree in education at Ohio State University.

"I had never even heard of Hilliard. I didn't know it existed. … I had to ask someone how to get there," she said.

Mizer, who now lives in Dublin, graduated from River View High School in Warsaw in Coshocton County and earned her bachelor's degree in mathematics and her master's degree in education in six years from Ohio State.

While working toward her master's degree, Mizer was required to be a student teacher at an urban school-Independence High School in Columbus-and a suburban district, which turned out to be Hilliard, where she was assigned to Heritage Middle School.

"Once I got to Hilliard, I knew it was a district I never wanted to leave," she said.

Doug Lowery, then-principal at Heritage, offered Mizer a full-time position after she completed her student-teacher requirements, and she joined the full-time staff in 1999.

Two years later, she moved to Memorial.

"Julie is one of those teachers that kids absolutely love," Memorial Principal Barry Bay said. "She is dedicated to making sure that every student learns and grows, while also ensuring that every student feels welcomed and valued."

Mizer said her greatest thrill is watching her students "get it," referring to the moment when a student grasps a mathematical process or formula.

She credits her own high school math teacher, Debbie English, with inspiring her to achieve her potential and starting her on a path to become an educator.

"She told me I could be (better) if I applied myself," Mizer said.

While in high school, Mizer began tutoring other students.

"When I saw that I was helping my own friends understand math and saw them get it, that was a great feeling to me and had a big impact on me," she said.

Mizer said she wasn't aware that one of her students, Alexis Griffith, had nominated her for Teachers of the Year until another teacher called to congratulate her.

Griffith, a rising freshman, described Mizer as "funny and kind."

"Whenever a student needs her help with anything she is there. ... Math isn't my favorite subject but she taught me in a way I'd understand," she wrote in her nomination. "She helped me with everything I needed help with, so I hope she wins because she definitely deserves it."

Mizer learned she had won during a surprise announcement ceremony preceding a talent show at the school on June 3, the final day of classes in Hilliard.

Bay said Mizer is successful because she supports her students' interests both inside and outside her classroom.

"(Julie) supports her students inside the classroom while also caring and supporting their outside interests, (and) she truly makes kids feel like partners in the learning process," Bay said.

Mizer said she is pleased her efforts have made inroads with students, including acceptable ways to achieve maximum comfort in the classroom. The latter includes an informal yet respectful way students address her simply as "Mizer."

During her time as a coach, Mizer said, some students hesitated not only with "Mrs." or "Ms.," but the appropriate time to address her as "Coach." As a remedy, students began referring to her as "Mizer."

"I make it clear and it is understood that if it is said respectfully, the kids can call me 'Mizer,' " she said.

As she concludes her second decade in education, Mizer acknowledged she has needed to change with evolving technology.

"But one thing that does not change is the excitement I have watching kids grow and learn and witnessing their own excitement. That's the best part of teaching," Mizer said.