The Hilliard High School Alumni Association last week named B.J. Hites, a fourth-grade teacher at Hoffman Trails Elementary School, as its Educator of the Year.
The alumni association recognized several Hilliard educators April 16 during the organization's 10th annual Educators of Excellence ceremony at the McVey Innovative Learning Center.
Ten other teachers, each from a different school building, were honored, but Hites was awarded the association's top recognition.
Alumni member Tom Calhoon was emcee of the recognition ceremony and surprised Hites in informing him he had been named Educator of the Year.
Hites was not among the 10 announced Educators of Excellence because he was honored in a previous year, Calhoon said, so Hites truly was surprised when he was recognized April 16.
"It was a long and winding journey," Hites, 41, said of becoming a teacher.
He credited his parents and his own "special teachers" for their role in his journey, and the ability to teach students such as Sydney Wolfe and Luke Hampshire, who were both there to celebrate with him.
Kara Wolfe, Sydney's mother, nominated Hites and wrote about his ability to realize that her daughter needed to work more on her confidence than her ability to do math.
Wolfe said her daughter often cried while doing math homework in the third grade. She said Hites told her it appeared Sydney knew how to do math but did not believe that she did.
"He helped give her the confidence that she needed," Wolfe said.
She said she has never seen another teacher "go above and beyond" in such a manner.
"He focuses on the individual and not just the subject (being taught)," Wolfe said.
She said her daughter, now in the fifth grade, enjoys math.
As Calhoon read Luke Hampshire's written nomination for Hites, Hites asked Luke to join him at the front of the room.
Luke wrote about Hites tutoring him and other students after school.
"He is always challenging us and no matter what, he will not give up on you," Luke wrote.
Hites studied engineering upon entering college, but graduated in 1998 from the Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in early American history.
The experience of coaching at St. Brendan the Navigator, a parochial school in Hilliard where his niece attended, led him to teaching.
He earned his teaching certificate in 2001 and joined the staff at Hoffman Trails later the same year -- the year the school opened -- where he remains a fourth-grade math and science teacher.
The 10 Educators of Excellence honored with Hites were:
* Linda Trudeau, a teacher at the Hilliard preschool
* Susan Curtis, a K-2 reading teacher at Alton Darby Elementary School
* Claudia Jones, a music teacher at Britton Elementary School
* Carol Capretta, a 4-5 loop teacher at Darby Creek Elementary School
* Chris Clifton, a fifth-grade teacher at Hoffman Trails Elementary School
* Jim Smalley, a K-1 teacher at Norwich Elementary School
* Ron Marshall, a fourth-grade teacher at Ridgewood Elementary School
* Angela Davoll, a music and band instructor at Memorial Middle School
* Cathleen Emmons, an eighth-grade language-arts teacher at Weaver Middle School
* Pam Worth, an English teacher at Bradley High School
"You change lives (and) we are blessed to have each and every one of you," Assistant Superintendent Leslie McNaughton told them.