"Mary Potter is, without a doubt, one of the most positively influential teachers I have ever known and a true treasure for families of the Wellington School." -- Erin Noviski, head of middle school

After four decades in education, a language arts teacher at the Wellington School is stepping away from the classroom as a middle school teacher of the year.

Mary Potter, a fifth-grade language-arts teacher at Wellington, was honored June 2 at the school as one of the Columbus Parent/ThisWeek Community News 2017 Teachers of the Year.

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } Columbus Parent editor Julanne Hohbach introduces Mary Potter, a fifth-grade language-arts teacher at the Wellington School, as the middle school winner in the Columbus Parent/ThisWeek Community News 2017 Teachers of the Year contest.

The longtime educator and mother to Sarah and Seth Potter retired at the end of this school year after 40 in the classroom, including the past 32 at Wellington. She was one of three central Ohio teachers to receive the awards, which were given at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

"I get everything I could possibly need or want from the kids," Potter said after receiving the award. "I know I'm loved here.

"The love and caring I carry out of here ... I've got all the gifts I need."

Potter, 66, earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's in education from Ohio State University.

She began her career as a kindergarten and first-grade teacher in the South-Western City School District, where she taught for eight years, before stints at OSU and Otterbein University supervising student teachers and designing programs to implement computers into classrooms throughout Ohio.

The latter work brought her to Wellington 32 years ago, where she initially integrated technology into classrooms by training teachers and students in computer skills.

Although Wellington lacked technology resources at the time, Potter took the job because she wanted to work with younger students again and because of opportunities to teach them in new ways.

"It was kids thinking, kids problem-solving," she said. "The sky was the limit. They gave me total freedom to run with it with all sorts of kids. It didn't have to be one-size-fits-all."

Eventually, Potter became a language-arts teacher at Wellington. She spent 15 years teaching seventh-graders and then transitioned to fifth grade.

Potter was chosen from 133 Teachers of the Year nominations received for educators across central Ohio. The editorial staffs of Columbus Parent and ThisWeek narrowed the list to 15 finalists, with the winners selected by a public vote.

Potter was nominated by a group of colleagues and parents, led by the school's assistant marketing director, Caroline Haskett.

"With the uncanny ability to listen to so many children at once and yet still hear their individual voices, Mrs. Potter has dedicated her life for the last 30 years to finding out what makes kids tick," the nomination read. "She never hesitates to volunteer her time or her home to someone struggling. From organizing clothing and book drives to personally delivering homemade peanut and jelly sandwiches to the homeless, she has been a longtime proponent for the importance of service learning for all ages."

Head of Middle School Erin Noviski also praised Potter's influence.

"In her 32 years at the Wellington School, Mary Potter has demonstrated a remarkable ability to connect with each and every one of her students by nurturing, challenging and inspiring them to grow into confident and capable adults," Noviski said. "Mary's passionate commitment to service learning is reflected in her students' dedication to giving back to others long after they leave Wellington.

"Mary Potter is, without a doubt, one of the most positively influential teachers I have ever known and a true treasure for families of the Wellington School."

Potter, a longtime Upper Arlington resident, said she will continue to extend a helping hand to those in need.

It's a commitment that was ingrained in her by her parents, who often took in children who needed shoes, meals, emotional support and physical protection while the family lived on the Hilltop area of Columbus where her father taught.

"I think you kind of know when it's the right time to retire, and there are things I want to do service-wise," Potter said. "I know you don't look at all students and people the same.

"They're not all the same. Some people just need that window opened for their opportunities."

This year's other Teachers of the Year winners are Amy Anderson of Buckeye Woods Elementary School and Kristy Halleck of Central Crossing High School, both part of the South-Western City School District.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate

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