Each year, just before school starts in Grandview Heights, the district honors two staff members for the excellence they displayed the previous year.
Grandview Heights High School math teacher Kevin Richards was named the district's 2017-18 Teacher of the Year and paraprofessional Lisa Zag was honored as the Win-Win Award recipient Aug. 14 at the annual staff convocation.
Hearing his name called as Teacher of the Year was "humbling," Richards said.
"I'm more than blessed to be able to work in a district with such a caring and dedicated group of teachers and administrators," he said.
"Everyone has a mission to provide the best education possible for our students.
"With all the support we get from our superintendent, school board, administrators and the community, there's no better district in which to teach," Richards said.
Richards has taught in Grandview for 27 years.
His original intention was to become an accountant, Richards said.
"My dad was a teacher for Cleveland Public Schools, but I never thought of following in his footsteps," he said. "I took business classes and accounting classes in high school and I thought what I wanted to be was a certified public accountant."
Richards was attending community college and taking business classes when his father suggested he would be better suited enrolling at Ohio State University and pursuing a career in education.
He followed his father's advice "and I've never looked back. I had some experience coaching middle school basketball, and I really did enjoy working with kids," Richards said. "My dad saw that. He saw something in me that I couldn't see yet."
With teaching, as with coaching basketball, "the best part of the job is seeing the success your kids have over time," he said. "It's the kids who come back from college and look me up and tell me about what they're accomplishing now.
"The feeling that you've played a small part in that -- that's the reward of teaching," Richards said.
Teaching Algebra 2, Honors Algebra 2 and applied geometry, Richards mostly has freshmen, sophomores and juniors in his classes.
He also serves as senior class adviser.
"It's great to work with the seniors because some of them I haven't seen for two or three years since they were in my class," he said.
"It's nice to spend time with them as they are preparing to leave Grandview on move on to college."
Mathematics is about more than just math, Richards said.
"When you're working on math problems, you're developing critical-thinking skills, deductive skills and learning about problem-solving, and those are skills you'll use throughout your life to deal with the everyday problems and situations that come up," he said.
The Win-Win award is given each year to a classified employee for his or her outstanding job performance.
Zag works as a paraprofessional in the libraries at Stevenson Elementary School and Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School.
"I was very surprised when they announced my name," Zag said. "I feel extremely grateful being chosen to win the award. There are so many fantastic staff members in Grandview Heights City Schools that go the extra mile to help students grow."
During the last several years, Zag said her duties have focused on checking books in and out to students, cataloging new books and assisting students in the library.
"Students come into the library looking for new books to read," she said. "I guide them to books that they may be interested in, depending on their grade level and hobbies. I work with teachers to find books that go along with their lesson.
"Kristi Jump does a great job filling the libraries with books that students love to read," Zag said. "My job is to help get those books into the hands of the students and teachers."
Zag has worked 20 years in Grandview. She previously worked as a teacher's assistant at Columbus Public Schools.
"I have always loved working with children," she said. "I love seeing their eyes light up when they learn something new and being part of that process is very rewarding.
"My favorite part of my job is the excitement students get once they finish a good book," Zag said. "They come back to the library and tell me all about the characters and events in the book. If we don't have a particular book at Edison, the students are disappointed. But they are soon excited when I tell them I can go get the book from the high school.
"In today's society, so many young people turn to technology, so to see them get excited about books is a terrific feeling."