When Cincy put out the inaugural call for the Tristate's Best K-12 teachers, nominations listed professional honors and accomplishments. But they also related personal stories and spoke of the enduring impact a skilled and caring teacher brings to the classroom and to individual students.

Cincy presents the area's top 25 teachers with the full knowledge that this is just the beginning of the story of the outstanding educators in our classrooms.

A few of the nominators' quotes accompany the list of winners.
Jayne Black
Woodland Middle, Taylor Mill, Ky.
"She gives guidance and direction. She is a winner, and she knows what it takes to make one." "” Debra Tarkat

First Grade
St. James the Greater, White Oak

She calls it a "best moment."

Two little girls started first grade at St. James Grade School. One was always reading chapter books. The other lamented, "I wish I could read like her." And the teacher said, "I promise you'll be able to read that well by the end of this year." The following summer, the teacher received a letter from that little girl. It said, "Thank you for keeping your promise. I can now read chapter books. "

The moment, culled from Kathy Bromer's 37 years of teaching, is just one that has kept her at the blackboard after many of the 68-year-old's friends retired. But even heart-warming stories are no competition for the draw of a first grandchild, prompting her to plan a 2012 exit.

Teaching at St. James, where she went to grade school and was married, was her game plan while attending Edgecliff College. She even jokes St. James "has a spot out back in the cemetery for me." She began teaching fourth-graders there, but detoured to another school to teach first grade before returning years later.

She's seen first-graders evolve from yesteryear's children who may not have gone to kindergarten or day care, hadn't been away from parents and didn't know an A from a B or a C, to today's kids who left their separation anxiety back in pre-school and learned to read in kindergarten.

Her teaching style has been influenced by a barrage of teaching plans incorporated through the years. "We've been through them all, from phonetics to whole language. I take a little bit of everything and blend it together," she says.

But being a mom has also taught her to be a better teacher. "Once I had my own children, I became aware of everything that goes on at home, the whole life picture for each student.

"That's made me a better teacher, more aware of the whole child."

Allison Burns
St. Francis Seraph, Cincinnati
Lillian Carter
N. Avondale Montessori,
N. Avondale

St. Xavier High School,

An Elder grad, once the voice of the Panthers, is teaching at cross-town rival St. X, and is now the official voice of the Bombers? Unconventional, no doubt about it.

But Dave Eby, who took over calling Elder games from his father while still in high school after his dad had a heart attack, thrives on the unorthodox to help students find life's lessons everywhere, from the running track to painting porches in Virginia's Appalachian country.

"A lot of educators emphasize the I.Q., but I hone in on the Emotional Quotient of the student. Too many define themselves by I.Q., but the best people I work with have a strong E.Q. as well," says the religion teacher and cross-country coach.

Eby, 53, sees no disconnect in teaching religion to young men whose plates are often overflowing with sports, academics, relationships and jobs. "If you talk about the institutional God and doctrine, they shut down. I try to find God in all things "” sports, academics, etc. You have to be willing to enter their world, see them as young men who need inspiration and guidance and are willing to be led."

The key for him is creating a classroom "where they feel like they belong and know what I expect from them. Almost every student wants the ability to perform, whether it's in a classroom or on the field."

His invitation to them to "stay faithful to the struggle" applies to all parts of their lives. "You have to let them define what the struggle is, admit that it takes effort and stay with it, even through mistakes and their correction."

At the end of his time with them he wants students to leave with the answer to man's question of how to get to heaven from the Book of Micah (Old Testament), "do right, love goodness and walk humbly with God."

Villa Madonna Academy High School, Villa Hills, Ky.

There's no sappy plot-worthy moment that makes English literature teacher Pam Fitzpatrick (shown with photos previous students have sent) "happy to say, I'm going to school today,' instead of "¢I have to go to work today.' "

Rather, it is the "everyday little moments" in her Villa Madonna Academy classroom that matter "” "when a student really connects with a book or author, or works exceptionally hard on a piece of writing and wins a contest or just that 'ah-ha' moment of understanding lighting up a face."

The former airlines employee credits a book-hungry mom and challenging role-model teachers for steering her into teaching 16 years ago. She uses that same approach with her own students, managing to make classics authors, including Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Shelley and Twain, relevant to 21st Century techno teens.

"I tell them all the time that literature transcends time and space. I ask them, "¢How does the book apply to today's life, not to when it was written?' Take the characters in Of Mice and Men"” they exist today, we have the same problems. It's a lot of self-discovery. I ask, "¢What does it mean to you?'

"The big challenge is to keep up with technology, to keep students engaged." They are not used to reading for extended periods, she says, yet that's what college will demand.

It doesn't end with academics. Fitzpatrick, 50, is part of a program, Improve Your Edge, that prepares seniors for the future. "With the concentration on academics we found students were lacking in basic life skills "” how to interview, shake hands, dress appropriately, network, dining etiquette "” little things like turning off a cell phone during a meal. It's all part of preparing them for life after Villa Madonna." 

Michelle Frey
Intervention Specialist
Prince of Peace, Madisonville

Aimee Hansen
Mason High School, Mason

Dr. Ann Hinkle
Ursuline Academy, Blue Ash
"The consummate educator ... an inspiration to her colleagues as well as her students." "” Sharon Redmond

Susan Kampel
Math and Reading
Holy Family, Price Hill

Barb Luken
Math, Science and Religion
St. Boniface, Northside
"A deeply passionate professional concerned with every aspect of an adolescent's development."
"” Cary Powell
Robyn McDonald-Gordon
English/Language Arts
Princeton High School,
 "Extensive extra-curricular experiences that vary from curriculum development to coaching."
"” Gayle DeBrossard

Cindy Null
Intervention Specialist
S. Lebanon Elementary,
S. Lebanon

Craig Phillips
Math/Technology Administrator
All Saints School, Kenwood
"Always ready to assist a struggling student catch up or help an advanced student reach higher...""” Mark Stuhlreyer

Alison Probst
St. Ursula Academy, Walnut Hills


Astronomy (STEM)
The Cincinnati Observatory,
Mt. Lookout

The heavens and its stars were once just a black hole to Dean Regas, 37, now leader of the Cincinnati Observatory's K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program.

"I couldn't even spot the North Star," he says of the day in 1998 his Cincinnati Parks boss put him in charge of the tiny 16-seat Burnet Woods planetarium show. His history degree was of little use, except for the mythology behind the constellations. He started there and branched out with the help of Observatory mentors.

When the newly renovated Observatory started STEM in 2000, the goal was to spread the word about the historical Mount Lookout site, reaching about 1,500 people. This year, they expect to average about 24,000 visitors, including about 12,000 students.

"We go by the phrase, "¢educate, engage, inspire,' so each teacher can request a topic and we can cater to that age group," he says. "We want to make the sky accessible to them, to identify what's going on up there and let them know this is something they can do themselves."

Regas' favorite part is to watch a kid looking through a telescope pointed at the moon. "You can see the moon's light comes through the scope and hit their eyes. Their faces light up, and they look at you and say, "¢That's unbelievable.' That's when you know you got 'em."  

Tina Reynolds
Fourth Grade
Woodfill Elementary,
Ft. Thomas, Ky.
Michelle Robinson
South Elementary, Mt. Healthy
"She is insightful and loves the children. The kids have fun learning, and it sticks." "” Lori Jones
Laura Rupp
Purcell Marian High School,
Walnut Hills"
(She) provides individualized mentoring and recommendations to each scholar based on his or her interests and accomplishments." "” Tammy Reasoner
David Schaefer
Information Technology
Holmes High School,
Covington, Ky.
"Spends countless hours of his time ... teaching students skills they will need for life." "” Linda Jackson
Michelle Shafer
Mt. Notre Dame, Reading
"With a biomedical engineering degree and a masters degree in education, (she) has helped to grow the science program.""” Karen Dayt

Beth Siemer
Fourth Grade
St. Ignatius Loyola, White Oak

James Stetzler
Fourth Grade
Corryville Catholic "” Clifton
"A leader in the school and community and a model of passion foreducation and growth."
"” Cate O'Brien
Libby Turner
Resurrection, Cincinnati
"She examines the curriculum to better adapt the content to the ever-changing needs of the children she serves."
"” Sharon Civitello

Mark Wiesner
Summit Country Day,
Hyde Park