A teacher at Etna Road Elementary School in Whitehall is one of five Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart honorees as part of a program supported by the Ohio Department of Education.
Patrice Archer, 63, of Blacklick is a 33-year educator and an intervention specialist at Etna Road.
Last school year, Archer worked with eight students with varying disabilities who were in the fourth or fifth grades.
Archer's family and colleagues successfully surprised her late in the school year in announcing she was a TORCH honoree.
"I have never been so shocked," said Archer, who was told to "dress professional" for a virtual meeting using Zoom with staff from Etna Road and the state education department
During the session, an ODE staff member began describing the criteria for TORCH honorees.
"I was taking notes and thinking about who I could nominate," said Archer, before she was told she was the recipient.
Listening in on the meeting were her son, Trey, who traveled from the Dayton area, and her daughter, Chelsea, from Beavercreek.
Staff members from Etna Road and other colleagues and friends drove by her residence to celebrate the recognition.
Jessica Moore, the principal at Etna Road Elementary School, nominated Archer.
Moore said she nominated Archer "because she consistently goes above and beyond for our students, their families and our Etna Road team," Moore said.
Before arriving at Whitehall schools, Archer worked at the Cloverleaf Local School District in Medina County, where she helped establish its preschool for children with disabilities in the early 1990s.
She also taught at a school in Indiana and worked for the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, affording her the opportunity to work with multiple districts.
"I do all I can to make my students feel like they are a part of the school and the community," Archer said.
Much of her focus, she said, is ensuring her students have the social skills and life skills to succeed as adults – something Moore notices.
"Whether Patrice is seeking opportunities for her students to be included with their general-education peers, making home visits or sending small gifts, it is clear she loves what she does, and (we) are lucky to work with Patrice each day," Moore said.
TORCH recognizes five educators annually, "celebrating their efforts to model strong character and heart for their students, colleagues and communities," according to a page on the Ohio Department of Education website.
Each year, the Ohio Teacher of the Year and the award's finalists evaluate nominations and work with a committee to select five TORCH honorees.
The other four honorees are Jody Benda of the Apollo Career Center in Lima; Carlie Fahrnbach of Locust Corner Elementary School in New Richmond; Cheryl Longnecker of Eastern Elementary School in Lexington; and Amanda Mickey at Chillicothe High School.