Liberty Tree's Jonathan Juravich is the Ohio Department of Education's 2018 Teacher of the Year.

Being named 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year gave Jonathan Juravich the chance to make a meaningful fashion statement.

The art teacher at Olentangy Liberty Tree Elementary School on Sept. 8 donned a vest studded with buttons with pictures of his co-workers, who Juravich lauded as inspirations.

Parents of cross-country runners might know Juravich as the coach from Hyatts Middle School who wears buttons with the faces of all his athletes.

Juravich said the tradition started as a goof -- he wore the photo button of a student who neglected to pick up the pictures his parent ordered -- but became quite meaningful when the rest of the team asked to be included.

"It's this encouraging moment," he said. "As they're running by, they know that I'm with them through it. Even if they're in pain running, they show me a smile and keep going."

Juravich said he wanted to wear images of Liberty Tree colleagues while accepting his award because he views the honor from the Ohio Department of Education as a group achievement.

"I always refer to them as my family," he said. "We've had so many wonderful moments together. We've worked through so many hard ones, and I know that we're in it together."

The buttons were not the only fashion statement of the day.

Paolo DeMaria, Ohio's superintendent of public instruction, donned Juravich's trademark plaid shirt and black-rimmed glasses to honor his "new hero."

Liberty Tree students gathered for the surprise assembly roared as DeMaria revealed his new outfit and called "Mr. J" to the podium.

DeMaria said a panel selected Juravich as the state's top teacher from a group of 10 finalists from throughout Ohio. He said Juravich was selected not only for his passion for teaching, but for his collaborative efforts with peers and his work in the community.

"We think about how teachers engage with students, but it's really so much more than that," he said.

Juravich works on arts programs for the Columbus Arts Festival and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. He previously was named Man of the Year by the central Ohio chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Juravich said receiving the latest honor has been a humbling experience. He said his initial reaction was shock when DeMaria called a few weeks ago to tell him the news.

"I had a loss for words," he said. "I kept saying, 'Seriously?' "

Juravich has worked in the Olentangy Local School District since 2005 and at Liberty Tree since the school opened in 2007 in Liberty Township. He serves as the chairman of the district's elementary art department.

He resides in Columbus' Clintonville neighborhood with his wife, Amy, daughter, Josie, 4, and son, Ari, 5 months.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@twgallick