Phoenix Middle School teacher Tim Dove has been named 2011 Teacher of the Year by the Ohio Department of Education.

Phoenix Middle School teacher Tim Dove has been named 2011 Teacher of the Year by the Ohio Department of Education.

The announcement was made Friday morning at the school as students, staff, state and local education leaders, and Dove's family looked on. The award had been kept secret from Dove.

"I know this is extremely rare, but I don't know what to say," he said as he accepted the award from Deborah Delisle, state superintendent of education.

That really is rare, some of his students said, characterizing him as a gregarious classroom teacher who respects the individuality of his students.

Dove teaches seventh-grade social studies.

"He really cares about each of his students," said eighth-grader Adele Buchbinder. "He goes above and beyond what he is supposed to do."

By relating concepts in social studies to current events, students learn more about both, she said.

Ariel Bloom agreed. Dove often gets excited about what he is teaching, and that excitement ignites the interest of his students, she said. She was pleased when he recently attended her bat mitzvah.

"He's just fun to talk to," she said. "He's a party animal."

Delisle used more formal terms to describe the same qualities.

"By personalizing the educational experience, Mr. Dove taps into each student's inherent abilities to enable them to be successful, not only in school but in life," she said.

Dove was one of the "architects on the dream team that created Phoenix Middle School."

Phoenix is the district's alternative middle school. Now in its fourth year, the school is described as a community where everyone is involved in teaching and learning from each other. Values of the school include self direction, choices, relevance and responsibility.

This is Dove's 30th year in the district. He started his career in the same building in which he now teaches. Back then, it was Perry Middle School.

He also taught at Worthingway and McCord middle schools before being part of the team that designed and started Phoenix.

Dove, 52, grew up in Cincinnati and graduated from Miami University with a bachelor's degree in education with a concentration in social studies. He earned his master's degree from Ohio State University and has completed post-graduate work in social studies education and global studies.

Nominations for the award are reviewed by a statewide review panel including representatives of professional organizations, businesses and school districts, including former award-winning teachers.

There were three other finalists this year, including another Worthington teacher.

Kellie Ehlers, who teaches at Evening Street Elementary School, was also a finalist.

Worthington superintendent of schools Melissa Conrath said she thinks of teachers like Dove and Ehlers when she is asked why Worthington is such a great school district.

Passionate teachers who love what they do is the number one reason for the district's success, she said.