XENIA — Teachers touch the lives of children and their impact extends far beyond the classroom. Although we can’t ever thank them enough for their work, we can take a moment during National Teacher Appreciation Week to share our appreciation for the special educators who call Xenia home.
The following eight teachers have been recognized for their dedication to Xenia Community School’s students, demonstrated by their excellence in the classroom.
Linda Comer, special education, Warner Middle
Comer has worked in Xenia for 22 years. She began her career in Dayton Public Schools in 1992 and came to Xenia in 1996. She has been a multiple disabilities teacher her whole career. Comer, who also lives in Xenia, has made many strong connections with students and families over the years. Kids who were her students when she first began teaching are now parents of kids that Comer sees at Warner today.
Comer’s positive influence, conviction and compassion for teaching and supporting students is evident in her every day work. Her qualities and traits are what many Warner staff hope to emulate.
“She is an incredibly passionate teacher and we are lucky to have her here to improve the lives of our students,” said Principal Ted Holop.
Comer decided to become a special education teacher when she was a junior in high school. After school and during summer months she babysat a little girl who had severe disabilities. That experience sparked her passion and she knew she wanted to teach children with special needs.
“Students, regardless of cognitive or physical abilities, can be successful both at school and in life,” Comer said. “There is no stopping them.”
Kyle Gray, mathematics, high school
Gray has taught in Xenia for 26 of his 27 year career. Growing up, Gray had coaches and teachers who helped shape his life. Without their positive impact, he would probably not have pursued a career in teaching and would be working in the private sector, he said.
“Xenia is a great place to live and raise a family,” Gray said. “I wanted to work here to give back to the community that helped to make me who I am today. I started kindergarten in Xenia in 1974 and I’m still here today.”
Gray demonstrates excellence in the classroom, and his performance is proven by his student’s achievement, according to Principal Dr. Hank Jackoby.
“Mr. Gray’s work in the classroom is exceptional,” Jackoby said. “He communicates high expectations and challenges kids, while building positive relationships.”
Gray’s greatest joy is seeing students’ accomplishments once they leave the halls of Xenia High School.
“I log onto social media and I see former students who are doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, teachers, mechanics, pilots, and factory workers, who are now raising their own families,” he said. “That’s when I know that my years teaching have mattered.”
Adrienne Lewis, fourth grade math, Arrowood Elementary
Lewis has been teaching in Xenia for 20 years. She knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was younger and helped her sister with her homework. She liked the feeling of helping her sister understand things better or in a different way. She wanted to become a teacher to help others, too.
Lewis excels at ensuring her students grow from year to year, said Principal Travis Yost. 7
“She is the master at using testing data to make impactful instructional decisions for her students,” he said.
Lewis grew up in Xenia and has fond memories of her school years.
“Being from Xenia has helped me to build trusting relationships and make connections with my students and their parents,” Lewis said. “These connections help me to get to know students on a more personal level.”
Lewis’ classroom is a place where students can escape their worries and learn in a happy and safe environment.
“It’s important to me to create a space for my students that is relaxed, comfortable and supportive so they can focus on learning,” she said. “When those needs are met, they can accomplish great things. That makes them proud, and I’m proud too.”
Paula Linsenbigler, fifth grade math, Shawnee Elementary
Linsenbigler grew up in Xenia and has taught here for 17 years. When she was in fourth grade, her mother died due to an alcohol-related accident. School is what got her through that rough period in her life, she said.
“I had some amazing teachers who were very important influences during what was the hardest part of my life,” Linsenbigler said. “I had teachers who were loving, kind, and best of all, funny.”
She helped to start and currently leads the Kids Hope Mentoring program at Shawnee. She loves being able to give back to the community that fostered her love of learning.
“The students in our building and in her class look to her as a positive role model,” said Principal Scott Poole.
Linsenbigler’s classroom is exciting and engaging.
“Working in Xenia has allowed me to work with students who may have similar childhood obstacles as myself, and it blesses me to think that I may have the same influence on them that some of my former Xenia teachers had on me,” she said.
Many students come to her classroom lacking confidence in math.
“I get great satisfaction knowing that I am responsible for changing their minds about what they can do,” Linsenbigler said. “I believe any child can learn and be in control of their future if they are willing to put in hard work.”
Brandi Pagett, first grade, McKinley Elementary
Pagett’s 19-year teaching career has been spent in Xenia. One of the things she loves about teaching in Xenia is the positive support she receives from parents.
Pagett is creative and inspiring in the classroom, according to Principal Garry Hawes. She loves that every day in the classroom is different.
“I love having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of my students. It is so rewarding,” she said.
After growing up in Xenia and graduating from Xenia Community Schools, Pagett felt that teaching would be a great way to give back to her community.
“There are so many amazing people who live in Xenia and this is one way that I can be a positive role model as well as help give students the tools they need to be productive members of this community,” she said.
Xenia students work hard in class even when things are difficult. They are willing to persevere until they get it, she said.
“The students in Xenia never cease to amaze me,” Pagett said. “I appreciate that students are motivated to learn and are developing into individuals who can positively solve problems that arise. The level of questions that my first graders ask shows how inquisitive and thoughtful they are.”
Brittany Phipps, kindergarten readiness, Preschool
Phipps has taught for seven years. Her own dislike for school is what drew her to the teaching profession.
“I didn’t like school,” she said. “I knew I wanted to make learning a fun and authentic experience for kids.”
Xenia teachers have a genuine love for their students and the desire to help, she said. The students she has in class are excited to learn and are curious about the world around them.
“I love to see the students grow and to witness their ‘a ha’ moments,” Phipps said. She exudes patience, understanding, kindness, confidence, and expertise in the classroom, according to Principal Jean Brady.
“Brittany is one of those teachers that you hope your child has every step of their education,” Brady said.
In the classroom, Phipps ensures that all students receive learning opportunities to meet their needs. The classroom environment she has created is calming and engaging, and students feel confident sharing their thoughts.
“Mrs. Phipps strives every day to provide the best education possible for her students,” Brady said.
All of her students met their year-end goals for reading and math.
“Mrs. Phipps is a person who brings joy to others and everyday her generous spirit spreads throughout the building,” Brady said.
Robin Saylor, literacy, Cox Elementary
Saylor has taught in Xenia for 31 years. The first 26 years of her career she taught second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. The last five years she has taught literacy, instilling a love of reading in her students. Saylor has fostered ongoing relationships with many of her students and have even had their children and grandchildren in her class. She was drawn to teaching after her experiences during summer camp in her youth.
“I would teach or show kids something, and it might take them a bit of time to get the hang of it, but when I saw their ‘a ha moment’ that’s when I knew I made a difference,” she said.
Cox Elementary is like family, she said, which fosters a safe atmosphere for students to take risks in their learning and to be reminded that making mistakes is how we learn.
“Our future is sitting in our classrooms,” Saylor said. “It’s my job to see that each child has the opportunity to shoot for the moon and to know that at the very least they will land among the stars.”
Saylor believes in her students and that is evident in her work, said Principal Lisa Peterson.
Julie Scheerschmidt, fourth and fifth grade science and social studies, Tecumseh Elementary
Julie Scheerschmidt has worked in Xenia Community Schools for 13 years. She previously taught preschool and first grade. She lives in Xenia.
“It is nice to run across former students in the community and hear about the great things they are up to,” she said.
Scheerschmidt uses assessments to help guide instruction, based on her students’ specific learning targets. She consistently measures her students’ progress throughout the year.
“Mrs. Scheerschmidt focuses on individual student needs and adjusts her lessons accordingly,” said Principal Cathryn Petticrew. “She continuously revisits previously taught skills to ensure students are mastering the content.”
It was her third grade teacher who inspired Mrs. Scheerschmidt to become a teacher.
“I wanted to be just like her,” she said. “My decision to become a teacher never wavered from that time in third grade.”
Scheerschmidt can imagine many of her students as future successful leaders in their community.
“I really enjoy working with these children because they work hard and they are fun to be around. They enjoy learning,” she said. “Xenia students have good character traits. They are kind and considerate of others, they persevere, and are willing to go the extra mile to accomplish their goals. My students make teaching fun and rewarding.”