Summerside Elementary School teacher Donald Koller has been chosen to receive the University of Cincinnati’s USA Outstanding Educator Award.
Nominated by 22-year old Union Township resident and University of Cincinnati senior Kevin Kew, Koller is one of three teachers from around the greater Cincinnati area to be honored with the award this year.
In the early fall, the University of Cincinnati asked all graduating seniors around the region to nominate a former teacher who has in some way positively affected their lives and nurtured their love for education.
“We encouraged graduates to nominate a former teacher from pre-school through 12th grade who fueled their love for education and inspired them to continue on the path to a higher education,” said UC President Nancy Zimpher. “Due to the outstanding nomination submitted by Kevin Kew, one of this year’s honorees will be Donald Koller.”
"Mr. Koller, who was my fifth grade teacher, was one of the best teachers that I have ever had," he said. "He was one of the few teachers that had an obvious passion for teaching; his passion was palpable. I feel that you can tell when teachers do and don't care; it comes across in their behavior, in and out of the classroom. You could tell that Mr. Koller cared; he had wonderful teaching methods. He also treated his students like adults. He never talked down to his students; this and many other things left a lasting impression on me."
Koller also instilled in his students a love of nature (Kew still has a collection of leaves that he saved as part of a 5th grade assignment), an appreciation of asking questions, a basic understanding of friendly competition, teamwork, role-playing, and group dynamics, Kew said.
"He affected my life in many ways, not just academically," he said. "I have tried to live my life adhering to the many values that Mr. Koller instilled in me at a very young age. I am a better person for having had his influence in my life."
Koller, who earned a bachelor's degree from UC in elementary education and lives in New Richmond, said that he is astonished that a college student would remember him in such a way after all of these years.
"It is wonderfully surprising," he said. "I have been teaching elementary school for 23 years and I really love it. It is at this age when you can talk to kids on a higher level and they have a love for learning. You can joke with them and they know how to joke; you can give them responsibility and they follow through. Kids can see your love and passion for teaching; they can and do pick up on it. When you enjoy and love something so much, like I have, you want to share it with others. That is what makes a successful teacher (or any occupation). Being remembered and having students like Kevin is the reward that all teachers hope for; I am deeply grateful to Kevin for nominating me for this honor."
At the Dec. 9 commencement ceremonies, Koller will receive a $1,000 UC scholarship which he will then present to a high school senior who has plans to enroll in UC for the 2007-2008 academic year.
Kew and Koller will be reunited at a special brunch hosted by UC President Nancy Zimpher at the UC Faculty Club before the ceremony Dec. 9.