XENIA — Xenia teachers were fired up for the new school year by hearing from the man in charge of Ohio’s public education system and an NFL Hall of Fame member.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria and former Cincinnati Bengals great Anthony Munoz provided inspirational messages during an opening day program Aug. 16 as the district’s teachers prepare for the first day of school Monday, Aug. 20. Both spoke about challenging students and never giving up on them.
Munoz rattled off names of former teachers and how they shaped his life as a person, student and athlete. He told the teachers who packed Bob Hope Auditorium about a friend and teacher who used innovative ways to reach students and how his former students speak so highly the man.
“Not only was he a great teacher but a great guy, and that’s what I see in all of you,” Munoz said. “Individuals that have an opportunity to impact and to have students — as they graduate and leave Xenia High School — talk about the teachers they had in high school.”
He urged the teachers to continually push students, regardless of their background and circumstances. That was the case for Munoz, who had four siblings and a single mother growing up.
“They had a young man that they wanted to mold, they wanted to build confidence and just because this young man never knew his dad, his dad was in and out of prison, that they weren’t gonna take it easy on this young man and say ‘Well your dad’s not there so we’re going to lower the standards. You don’t have to work as hard as the other students because, you know, these students might have two parents and you don’t.’ The bar was raised just as high for me as it was for all the other students and it was teachers and coaches that set that for me. It didn’t matter the adversity we were going through. School was a place that, hopefully down the road, we could get out of that environment because my teachers cared about me. They built confidence.”
He said teachers made his as confident in class as he was pitching for the high school baseball team. He implored Xenia teachers to do the same.
“If you have someone in front of you and you have the knowledge to pass it on, do it, regardless of what they look like, where they come from, what they have, what they don’t have,” Munoz said. “You have an individual you can impact and be a life changer. Be a game changer. You can make it happen.”
That’s what Munoz attempts to do through the Anthony Munoz Foundation, which has a mission to engage the tri-state (Cincinnati) region to impact area youth mentally, physically, and spiritually.
DeMaria delivered a charge that tasked teachers to do more and be better as part of the state’s new strategic plan, “Each Child, Our Future.” The plan’s purpose is to lift aspirations, create hope and excitement, guide development of state-level education policies and promote high-quality educational practices across the state.
DeMaria outlined the approach that ensures each student is challenged, prepared and empowered.
“Accept that challenge to keep challenging students,” he said. “I think so many times we underestimate what students can do.” Through his travels around the state, DeMaria said he has found that kids have been able to exceed “even the highest expectations.”
He urged teachers to obsess about what students are doing and what they are learning.
“That’s what’s going to have the payoff for students,” DeMaria said. “What are those knowledge and skills that our students are going to need to be successful. Do what great educators do all the time and commit themselves to continuous improvement.”
DeMaria also asked each teacher to continue to pay attention to the issues of equality.
“We have to acknowledge that we don’t do justice to every single child as the title of our strategic plan calls for. Look at each child and say, ‘Have we done absolutely everything we can in the spirit of helping that student be successful? What more do we owe it to that student to do?’ We have to keep asking ourselves and not rest until we know that we are doing right by every student.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.