Small town, great expectations

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NOTE: In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Fordham Ohio staffers will be blogging about teachers, principals, and guidance counselors who made a positive difference in their schooling and in their lives. This is the second post. The first post can be found here; the third can be found here; the fourth (which also celebrates National Charter Schools Week) can be found here.

I grew up and went to school in a small, blue-collar Ohio town named Plain City. It’s a place where you’ll find dozens of cornfields, can get your produce from a local Amish farm market, and if you try to pass through town on July 15, you’re out of luck because the main roads are closed for the annual Steam Threshers parade (a parade in which hundreds of Ohio farmers show off their tractors and farm equipment through the streets). I’m proud of where I came from, but part of me always wondered if I’d ever leave or if I’d even have the option. But my teachers at Jonathan Alder High School taught me to expect much from myself and instilled in me a passion for learning and writing. Two teachers in particular profoundly impacted my life.

Anita Swigart and Cat Stathulis, my tenth grade English teacher and Yearbook teacher, respectively, inspired me with their quick wit, love for English and writing, and self-confidence. Each of them taught me how to be a better writer and organize projects. I acquired a real thirst for reading and writing in Mrs. Swigart’s class, a love for Jane Austen, and confidence when she recommended me for an English honors course the following year. Mrs. Stathulis taught me to write and design a yearbook, to engage with external partners to obtain funding (a real-life skill that I use often today), and to believe in myself when she selected me to be the editor-in-chief of the yearbook my senior year.

After high school, I went on to become a first-generation college student. Today, I work in downtown Columbus, advocating for educational excellence for every student in the state. When I look out of my office window overlooking the city, I’m often dumbfounded by how I got here. And I feel nothing but overwhelming gratitude for my teachers at Jonathan Alder.

To Mrs. Swigart and Mrs. Stathulis, thank you for your support, your unwavering expectations, and for inspiring me to pursue an English degree in college. Happy teacher appreciation week!

Madison Yoder
Madison Yoder the communications and policy associate for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute