Two Olentangy Local Schools teachers this month became winners of the local Barnes & Noble "My Favorite Teacher" contest.

Two Olentangy Local Schools teachers this month became winners of the local Barnes & Noble "My Favorite Teacher" contest.

Hyatts Middle School teacher Dianne Holibaugh was recognized by the bookstore at Polaris Fashion Place. Tyler Run Elementary School teacher Becky Dittman was recognized by the company's Dublin-Granville Road location.

The teachers were nominated by students who wrote essays explaining how much they appreciate their teachers.

Eighth-grader Danielle Brewer of Hyatts Middle School said when she learned about the contest, "The first teacher that popped into my mind and who has inspired me was Ms. Holibaugh."

A literacy support teacher, Holibaugh also has served as student council adviser, teaching students "how to be a leader, what qualities you must possess, and that you must never settle for anything less than the best," Brewer wrote in her essay.

Holibaugh is "a selfless, positive, and admirable person ... who has a loving nature and gives everything while expecting nothing in return," Brewer wrote.

What Brewer found most striking about Holibaugh is how she is handling her fight against brain cancer.

"I turned 40, was physically fit, felt great about life, and (in January 2009) it completely came out of the blue and turned my life upside down for about a week," Holibaugh said. "I'm being treated by the James Cancer Center and have had a community of supporters."

"The past two years have been very rough with my health issues and to have a student look at that and say, 'You've had a lot of bumps in the road, but you've never stopped and never given up and never looked like you were sick,' meant the world to me because that's exactly what I wanted," Holibaugh said. "I want people to know it's not the end of the world, and you can find an inner strength, that I can model to others, not to give up, to have determination."

"Witnessing (Holibaugh's) attitude, courage and outlook on life ... has been a humbling experience for me," Brewer wrote.

"I'm really glad (the essay) won and she got recognized as a teacher because she really deserves it," Brewer said.

Olentangy Liberty Middle School sixth-grader Jessica Shen wrote about the support that Tyler Run Elementary teacher Becky Dittman gave her when Shen skipped from third to fifth grade. Dittman teaches advanced math and reading.

"She pretty much made me who I am. I skipped two grades, first and fourth, and Mrs. Dittman helped me accomplish that," Shen wrote.

Dittman also makes learning fun, Shen wrote.

"One example would be pi day, on March 14 -- 3.14. We would eat pie that Mrs. Dittman baked while learning more about pi," Shen wrote.

"It's the ultimate merit pay to have a student keep you in that special place in their lives and being able to express that you've influenced them in and out of the classroom. That's the reason that we've become teachers," Dittman said of her award.

"Jessica is a special student; she skipped two grade levels," Dittman said. "I met her as a third-grader and accelerated her to fifth grade. There are many conversations that you have with whole grade acceleration and I was the overseer of the process. She needed to know that she could rely on me."

"I think that Mrs. Dittman is an awesome teacher," Shen said. "She taught me a lot of stuff so that I was able to skip."

Dittman said she was grateful that Barnes & Noble took the time to recognize teachers.

"It's nice when the business community steps up and advocates for the teachers," Dittman said.

This is the first year the bookstore held the contest, said Arielle Berlin, Barnes & Noble spokes-person.

Every Barnes & Noble store nationwide held a local contest to pick one winner. The teachers won a set of 10 classics children's books and the opportunity to advance to a regional competition.