Nominations for the second annual K-12 Outstanding Educators came in a flurry from private and public schools and from all grade levels. They included stories of teachers who continually go the extra mile to not only teach but to support the development of our youngest students.

They relate stories of teachers who not only have the knowledge of what to teach but when, and those who seamlessly connect learning with life outside the classroom.

Cincy presents the area's top teachers for 2012 with the full knowledge that this is just the beginning of the story of outstanding educators in our classrooms.

2012 WINNERS

WINNER PROFILES

Paul Ebert - English/Reading "¢ DePaul Cristo Rey

Some people joke that teaching early adolescents "” in that "raging hormonal period" "” is a daunting task. But Paul Ebert thinks it's the best time for kids to study literature and reading so they can learn how to express their feelings.

"I love where my kids are in life, emotionally and mentally, the questions they are asking themselves," says Ebert. "I remember that period of my life and how it's part of the struggle to find out where you want to be."

Ebert, 32, a University of Dayton grad, began his career in early childhood education and then moved to a large public high school.

He finally found his niche as a freshmen English teacher at the area's newest high school, DePaul Cristo Rey, one of 25 college prep Catholic high schools in the nationwide Cristo Rey network offering an affordable education for urban students. The one-year-old school admits its second class this fall.

"My job is to help kids fall in love with reading and writing, to help them find an identity as a reader and a writer. Once they have that sense of self and an emotional connection with a piece of literature"¢it lights a fire and just goes from there."

Ebert says he lights that fire by making sure his English class is an environment where "my students know they are a person I want to talk to."

And Ebert acknowledges that he can't help himself. He has fun.

"The running joke around school is that my maturation level matches my students. I can't argue with that too much, because I love having a good time.

"We laugh a lot. That's important so they have a sense of home and safety in my classroom. They have an opinion. They want to be heard.

"My job is to get them to articulate what they are feeling."

Corina Corder - Spanish "¢ St. Ursula Academy

For Corina Corder, the secret to being a good teacher is pretty straightforward. "Whatever energy you take into a classroom, that's the energy you are going to get back from the kids," says Corder, in her 12th year as a Spanish teacher at St. Ursula Villa.

Part of the energy Corder brings to her Spanish classes is the importance of embracing other cultures.

"I love teaching kids about the world around us and that they aren't just in this little bubble. What they do affects everyone else and they can also help everyone else."

Corder, 38, got out of her bubble by studying Spanish.

The Oak Hills and Wilmington College graduate was inspired by a college teacher to immerse herself in another culture.

She went on a mission trip to Mexico and later returned for anthropology study working with a Mayan women's group.

She earned advanced degrees in international affairs and education at Ohio University and Xavier.

Traveling with students is important. Corder tries to do at least two trips a year, one to a Spanish-speaking country such as Spain or Costa Rica, the other anywhere students want to go.

She has led trips all around Europe and to Egypt and New Zealand.

Back in the classroom, Corder always emphasizes practical language applications.

"If you just teach straight vocabulary and grammar, they are going to be bored.

"It's not going to stick. The language has to be something that relates to real life."

And Corder acknowledges an even deeper message for her young female students "” learning a foreign language can be empowering.

"I stress the fact that these girls are going to grow up and be independent women.

"They don't need to be afraid to travel alone.

"They can communicate well, can help other people and learning other languages can help them change the world."

Kristi McKenney - Health/PE and Coach "¢ Milford High School

Kristi McKenney is not only dedicated to her students, she's dedicated to her players. A Health/Physical Education teacher at Milford High School, she is also head girls' varsity basketball coach.

One student at a time, she tries to make a difference, and also volunteers for a program to keep students away from drugs.

"I became a teacher and a coach because of the great role models and influences I had growing up," McKenney says. "I respected and admired my teachers and wanted to give back and make a difference in the lives of our youth."

So what makes teaching high school so special?

"I often say after every year of teaching when that one student who you were not sure you reached, gives you that note or that gift that blows you away. It makes that year all worthwhile," says McKenney, who recalls seeing many "Aha!" moments among students in her 17 years of teaching.

"I especially treasure graduation. To teach freshmen is special because at graduation, I love seeing them leave as successful young men and ladies."

Doni Beaupre - Science "¢ Campbell County Middle School, Ky.

Doni Beaupre isn't your average middle school science teacher and her class curriculum is anything but predictable.

Beaupre proposes science projects and experiments in each of her classes several times a week to make the students more interested in the subject. Some hits, she says, have included building Barbie Bungee Systems (called "Thrill Her, Don't Kill Her,") racing beetles and their larvae to collect acceleration data, and performing a live Angry Birds demonstration on the school's front lawn where students designed their own launching systems to knock down a tower.

"One student told me last year that my classroom is like a playground and it is, for me and them," she says. "I have toys and Newton's cradles set out for everyone to experiment with"¢even me."

"Teaching science is so rewarding in that the subject matter is so naturally hands-on and interactive," Beaupre says. "If I am not enjoying the class, then I know my students are not."

Kelly Meyers - Art "¢ Mariemont Elementary

Changing the image of an art teacher meant so much to Kelly Meyers that she decided to go back to school to obtain her master's in Art Education. She wanted to change the perception of art class from a place for painting and modeling clay to one with a more hands-on and thought-provoking approach.

"What drew me to teaching art was my elementary art teacher," Meyers says. "I was always good at art growing up, but I loved my elementary art teacher and wanted to be just like her."

There are so many moments over the past 10 years that Meyers says convinced her that teaching art is her life's work, including when she taught her third grade class about Claude Monet and took them to the Cincinnati Art Museum's Claude Monet exhibit this past year.

"I returned to school from that field trip on cloud nine, knowing that my third-graders just viewed an exhibit by one of the world's most famous painters, and they were radiating with excitement," she says. "I even had the security guard at the art museum pull me aside and compliment my third-graders' knowledge and excitement over the exhibit."

But above all that, what does she consider the best part of the job?

"What I find so rewarding is that I can touch a child's life with art and inspire them to carry that interest, confidence and knowledge throughout their life."