Sunday, August 26, 2001

Fairfield teacher praised, honored

He promotes character education

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — Parent Nancy Horujko doesn't know many teachers with the courage to don a wig, get into an oversized bathrobe and begin lip-synching to Aretha Franklin's hit “Respect.”

        But that's exactly what physical education teacher Kim Nuxhall did last year when he introduced the theme of respect at an all-school assembly as part of Central Elementary School's character education program, which he developed.

        It is one reason Mrs. Horujko nominated Mr. Nuxhall for Teacher of the Year, an award Mr. Nuxhall received Friday at an opening day meeting before Fairfield's 500-plus teachers.

        “This is the way he is. The kids just love him,” Mrs. Horujko said. “He is such a natural with the kids — the respect he exudes. He goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

        For 23 years Mr. Nuxhall, 47, a 1972 Fairfield High School graduate, has taught at Central Elementary School. Each month during the 2000-01 school year he helped introduce that month's new theme, often donning funny costumes as he talked about honesty, fairness, courage, decision-making, tolerance, peace, pride and responsibility.

        “It was the first year I got up in front of kids and talked. I overcame my fear because I was passionate,” said Mr. Nuxhall, son of Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Joe Nuxhall.“I don't have my dad's gift of public speaking.”

        But for more than 20 minutes Mr. Nuxhall spoke before his peers, often in tears, as he praised colleagues, giving credit to them: his wife, Bonnie, a school psychologist; his parents and friends, who attended the program.

        “I'm embarrassed because I know of the wonderfully talented people who should be up here before me,” Mr. Nuxhall said.

        In letters of nomination, Mr. Nuxhall was described as a man who had never raised his voice to a child in more than 20 years, as a teacher who treated each student with respect, a colleague who never complained and a humble person.

        “I think what feels the best is to know someone noticed and appreciated what I did with the kids,” said Mr. Nuxhall, who plans to offer the character education program to other schools.

        The month the students focused on honesty, Mr. Nuxhall said the students were playing soccer without a referee, calling penalties on themselves.

        “Kids want that (direction) so bad,” he said. “This award itself means a lot to me ... I wish all the kids could have been here. They're what makes this program work.”


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