BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — During the Hometown Hero Awards ceremony next week, several Maumee teachers will be recognized for their dedication to educating students in the community.
This year, four teachers were selected to receive the honor: Lisa Pauken, Shannon Cusumano, Annette Carroll and Terri Mortemore.
Lisa Pauken, the reading specialist at Fairfield Elementary, has been an integral part of the Maumee City Schools for more than 20 years. The recognition from her fellow teachers and the community is especially humbling, she said.
“I was surprised and happy. I cried. It was a whole range of emotions,” Pauken said.
Alison Swartzmiller was one of the teachers who nominated Pauken. She said Pauken was deserving of the award for several reasons.
“Lisa spends countless hours creating lessons and activities to meet her students’ needs,” Swartzmiller said. “She is an amazing role model for all teachers.”
As a reading specialist, Pauken uses data as well as observation to best serve the students who need help with different aspects of reading.
“We try to make like groups of students that need the same kind of intervention, but even in our groups, all the kids that are in there might need different things,” Pauken said. “Each student is an individual, and you have to try to find a way to hook them and to best teach them from where they’re at.”
Pauken’s position at the elementary school requires her to develop specific methods for each student, which means no two days look the same for her.
“Our job is a different experience each day,” Pauken said. “It’s just so engaging, I love it. I absolutely love what I do.”
Pauken, who grew up in Maumee, is committed to the community she loves and doing her best for her students. Her position, though different from other teaching positions she has held, allows her the opportunity to help students grow and learn something incredibly important.
“I love that ‘aha!’ moment, when they didn’t understand something and then I can see the lightbulb come on,” Pauken said. “That’s why I’m here. It’s my very favorite part of the job.”
Fort Miami Elementary’s counselor Shannon Cusumano’s favorite part of the job is difficult to choose.
As the sole counselor at Fort Miami, she helps more than 300 kids throughout the day with a range of problems.
Cusumano provides children with preventative lessons in bullying, abuse, health safety, careers, growth mindset and more. She also works reactively, helping students through different emotions they may be experiencing at school, responding to behavioral issues and complicated feelings like grief. Cusumano’s job requires her to handle issues unique to each student throughout the day.
“That’s the best part, just being comprehensive, being able to work with any child in this building,” Cusumano said. “I am here for all of the students in this building.”
Working with the students in kindergarten through third grade allows Cusumano the opportunity to build trust with them. They are able to see her as a constant in the building year after year, whether she’s teaching a lesson, helping at lunch or recess, or just popping into a classroom to say hello.
Building trust allows the students to feel more comfortable coming to her. Some even self-refer with cards she keeps outside of her office, Cusumano said.
In her nomination, Fort Miami teacher Becky Puls said Cusumano is the biggest cheerleader for the students and adults at Fort Miami and dedicates her time to supporting everyone with problems in and out of the classroom.
“She is rooting for everyone to be the best version of themselves,” Puls said.
Much like Cusumano, Wayne Trail’s fourth- and fifth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher Annette Carroll is known for going above and beyond the call of duty for her students.
Fellow Wayne Trail teacher Janette Schell nominated Carroll because of her actions both in and out of the classroom.
“I’ve taught with her for a long time, and she always puts the students first,” Schell said. “She goes above and beyond all the time, shopping for the kids on her own time, taking care of them, calling parents.”
A compliment like this is valued and appreciated, Carroll said, adding that she respects those she works with and values their essential role in making sure the children receive everything they need.
“It takes a village to raise a child and I think, especially with the pandemic, that was obvious,” Carroll said. “I’m grateful for the support and the help of other staff members, other teachers and support personnel. Everybody, custodial staff, bus drivers, we all work together to try to pull this off.”
Carroll is also quick to thank the parents in the community for allowing her to teach their children and the children for being her main reason for becoming a teacher. An added bonus to being a teacher is continually learning, Carroll said.
She learns each day from her students and fellow teachers. The other Golden Apple winners are just a few of the people she has learned from and respects, and all three teachers winning the award beside her are well-deserving of the award, she said.
“One of the things that was amazing to me was to see the other teachers that were nominated for this,” Carroll said. “I know how much respect I have for Terri, Lisa and Shannon, and just to see my name with those names is really humbling.”
For Terri Mortemore, the award is especially bittersweet. It comes at the very end of her teaching career.
Mortemore has been teaching for the past four decades, spending 33 of those years at Maumee High School as a chemistry teacher. Her last day was Friday, February 25.
“I have been here for 33 years. I taught in three other schools before I came here,” Mortemore said. “This was a good fit, and it has been a very rewarding place and I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve always felt very supported by the administration and by the parents, so I stayed.”
Her career with Maumee City Schools started because of a professor she knew at The University of Toledo.
Robert Tadson was a professor at UT and a chemistry teacher at Maumee High School. He approached Mortemore about an open position at the high school several years after her graduation. They taught together for many years before his retirement, and he acted as her mentor, Mortemore said.
Mortemore chose to stay in Maumee because it reminded her of her hometown, Fremont.
“It’s small and everyone is involved,” Mortemore said. “The school is the center, so it’s very comfortable here for me.”
There was a difference, though, between Mortemore’s schooling growing up and the schools where she later taught. She grew up in a Catholic school and started her career in one, too. The switch to public schools required a learning curve, but also allowed her the opportunity to see more perspectives.
“One of the big things I’ve learned is if I compare what I thought about people or schools when I was 22 and now, I think I’ve learned that public education is probably the best equalizer in this country,” Mortemore said. “If you are fortunate enough to be in a good public school, it will open doors for you and it will help you develop into a pretty open-minded person.”
Maumee City Schools is one of those “good public schools,” allowing Mortemore the chance to grow and help her students rise to many challenges, she said.
“Maumee City Schools is a jewel that I don’t think a lot of people really appreciate. It’s just a very good place,” Mortemore said. “We’re very lucky to have a school like this in our community. Thank you for the opportunity to serve here. It’s been very fun.”
With her retirement, Mortemore looks forward to spending more time with her three children and her husband, and she’s ready to move at her own pace.
“I’m looking forward to not having to be anywhere at 7:30 in the morning,” Mortemore said.
On Mortemore’s schedule, though, is still the Hometown Hero Awards Banquet, which will be held on Thursday, March 10 at 5:30 p.m. at The Pinnacle, 1772 Indian Circle, Maumee.