Julie Horger is used to being on the other side of the excitement.

Julie Horger is used to being on the other side of the excitement.

As the adviser to the staff of Bexley's student newspaper, The Torch, and the high school English Department chairwoman, Horger is usually in the background. She's guiding students how to get the right angle on a feature, conduct an interview or get the scoop on a story.

But Friday, April 10, Horger was the one making headlines as the 2015 Bexley Educator of the Year.

"I was totally surprised," she said following the announcement. "And I'm still in shock."

Members of the Bexley Education Foundation, which sponsors the award, were joined by Horger's former students, colleagues and others who packed into Horger's homeroom before the start of the day to make the surprise announcement, laden with balloons.

The annual award is presented to a Bexley educator whose leadership, dedication, extraordinary achievement and commitment to the classroom and the community have made a difference in students' lives. The award is funded by the Glick Family Endowment for the Bexley Education Foundation at the Columbus Jewish Foundation.

Nominations for Horger included current and former students, parents and colleagues who described her as a challenging, energetic and passionate educator.

"Julie is just a well-rounded teacher," said one of her nominators, Gail Martineau, a former student who serves as the community affairs coordinator for the city of Whitehall. "She's intelligent and shares that in a fun and interesting way. She makes learning real and broadens students' minds beyond the book.

"As our adviser for the newspaper, she is a gentle leader who really allows her editors to make real-life decisions through her guidance."

Horger, who has been teaching in Bexley for 19 years, loves being around teens and loves cultivating their writing skills -- no matter what kind of scripting it is.

"I love journalism," said Horger, a former community newspaper reporter herself, "and I also love introducing students to that world. It's a very real experience. It's not just an assignment for class."

Horger not only teaches journalism, but creative writing and AP English Literature as well. Spending time with teenagers is something she cherishes every day.

"I laugh every day," she says with a smile. "And that's very important to me."

But Horger also acknowledges that her success is not only due to her own drive and passion, but results from the caliber of educators who surround her as well.

"I feel like I am the teacher I am because of my colleagues. It's an honor to receive this -- but every single teacher in this building is amazing and we support each other to be better all the time."

Horger received her undergraduate degree from Bowling Green State University in 1996 and began teaching for Bexley that same year. Throughout high school and college, she worked as an editorial assistant at The Mirror newspaper in Maumee. She received her master's degree from Ohio State University in 2003.

In the summers of 2012 and 2013, she studied and taught in Japan, sharing methods of teaching critical thinking skills that have been effective in Bexley classrooms.

In 2014, The Torch was one of three high school newspapers named an "All-Ohio" publication by the Ohio Scholastic Media Association. Additionally, 31 members of its staff won a total of 69 individual awards for writing, photography, artwork, graphics and design.

On April 28, Horger will be honored at the Bexley Education Foundation Appreciation Banquet at Capital University, where she will be presented with a $1,000 cash award and a commemorative crystal apple.