Tuesday, October 03, 2000

Wilmington teacher named tops in Ohio

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        WILMINGTON, Ohio — Social studies teacher Doug Cooper didn't get the phone call he was waiting for Monday morning.

        He got something better: a visit from Susan Tave Zelman, Ohio's superintendent of public instruction, who came to Wilmington High School to announce that Mr. Cooper had been named Ohio's Teacher of the Year for 2001.

        “I'm always the last one to find out everything,” Mr. Cooper said while walking into the school's cafeteria, where students, his family, friends and dignitaries greeted him with hoots, hollers and a standing ovation.

        Mr. Cooper became Wilmington High School's first Ohio Teacher of the Year and Clinton County's second teacher to earn the honor in recent memory. Ellen Hill won the 1999 award while teaching at New Vienna Elementary School, in the East Clinton District.

“I knew nothing until we got here,” said Mr. Cooper, 33, who is chairman of the social studies department and has been a teacher at the school for 10 years. “I thought we (Principal Ron Sexton and Mr. Cooper) were going to call to find out who had been named Teacher of the Year. It wasn't until I heard the applause that I knew (it was me).”

        As the 2001 Teacher of the Year, Mr. Cooper will present speeches and workshops across the state to edu cation groups, civic organizations and other professional development training sessions. He was chosen from 50 applicants and four finalists, who were interviewed by a panel of 15 that included past winners, teachers and administrators. Mr. Cooper will represent Ohio in the national competition.

        Criteria used to judge the applicants included answers to essay questions about their philosophy of education, community service, teaching ability, professional development and innovation.

Other honors

               “I feel in some ways — many ways — I'm an ordinary person who has been honored in an extraordinary way,” said Mr. Cooper, who became a National Board Certified Teacher in 1999 and received the Ohio Governor's Educational Leadership Award 10 months ago.

        “He knows how to bring the community into school and he's done it with incredible grace and style. He cares strongly about his students,” Ms. Zelman said.

        “We're proud of Doug and all he's done and all he brings to our students,” Mr. Sexton said. “He goes beyond what is required to meet their needs and he draws from his colleagues and they draw from him. He's proud of them and they're proud of him.”

Remembering veterans
Last year he spearheaded an effort to raise money for the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. By involving his students, the district and the community, he helped raise more than $6,000 — the seventh-largest school donation in the country. He and eight students will attend the memorial's national dedication next month.

               His students say he's a good teacher who cares about them.

        “He relates to us,” said junior Alicia Sewell, 16. “I think he understands us as teen-agers. He's open-minded and he'll listen to your opinions.”

Proud family
His mother said her son has been a caring, participatory person his entire life. He was active in Boy Scouts, where he earned the Eagle Award, the organization's highest honor.

               “He's always been interested in history,” his mother, Nancy, said. “He's a good person. We're very proud of him. As a teacher he doesn't make the most money in the world, but there are other rewards.”

        Mr. Cooper's son, Seth, 11, says he's glad he didn't know until this morning that his dad was a winner.

        “I couldn't have kept it a secret. I would have told everyone,” said Seth.


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