Many UL educators are products of OUE


Times Leader Staff Writer

MORRISTOWN — Over the course of its 60 years in Belmont County, Ohio University Eastern has educated a large number of education professionals, several of whom are employed by the Union Local School District today.

UL Superintendent Ben Porter graduated from OUE in the 1990s and said the Union Local School District still has a strong relationship with the university today.

“I ended up transferring to OUE for two, two and a half years. I finished my education in Athens, but OUE really provided my foundation for a lot of the educational skills and tools that I use and have used throughout my education career,” Porter said.

He pointed out the convenience of the campus location in providing a foundation for his degree.

“It was close to home,” he said. “The affordability of it was something that played a big part with me. … It’s close to your family. You’re able to maintain employment, which helps pay for your college. The overall affordability of OUE in today’s economic world is huge.”

He recalled his time at the university, adding that the staff members were a source of inspiration and a good example for the students.

“Teachers know you by name, and you build those positive relationships with the staff. I was able to do that. Those relationships still carry over in a lot of ways today. I communicate with those staff, definitely learned a lot of leadership traits from them,” he said, adding that the mentoring has continued through his career. “The further I’ve gotten into administration I’ve been able to form a very good relationship with (Dean Paul) Abraham, who is someone I can feel comfortable learning skills and techniques from.”

Porter also spoke about the lasting partnership between the university and his school district.

“Union Local has a great partnership with OUE. We partner with them for a volunteer reading program called Project More. We’ve partnered with OUE with some co-teaching activities. As a district, we’ve always worked closely with them through providing mentoring and educational opportunities for students who are in college there. OUE has always, in my opinion, had a strong foundation, in particular for what I’m familiar with, their education field for preparing teachers for the workforce. They continue to do that today.”

He said he has worked with OUE staffers Kim Ciroli and Jacqueline Yahn in the early and middle childhood education programs.

“They have great people, great staff there who really assist us as a district by producing students able to enter the education field and be successful with children,” he said. “The impact that OUE has had on our district, whether it has been preparing kids that eventually turn into staff, has been huge, and we look forward to continue doing that.”

Union Local Curriculum Director Jayme Yonak graduated from OUE in the late 1990s and retains fond memories and a good relationship with the college.

“I felt like they really prepared me for education,” Yonak said. “I started out in the medical field, then I wanted to be a teacher so I switched over. I went to OUE and got my teaching degree there. I taught for 11 years and then I went into administration.”

She has been at Union Local for close to nine years.

“OUE gave me a good foundation. They started me out in education and from there I earned my master’s degree in curriculum,” she said, adding that the cooperation between Union Local and the college benefits both. “I continue to work with them. They have a really good education program over there. We try to partner up with OUE as often as possible. They will send a lot of their future teachers over here to do internships.”

Yonak added that the college students sent to Union Local can always be counted on to be professional and prepared. She said the OUE student teachers have been valuable in helping with after-school programs, which also provides field experience for the OUE students.

“They’ve helped us in a lot of ways with the grade school student teaching,” she said.

Jill Loase, middle school math teacher, graduated from OUE in the late 1990s. She said the location of the campus made her education possible.

“I was glad to be able to stay home and go to college and get my full degree there. It was cost-efficient,” Loase said. “My education at OUE got me the same job I’d have had if I had been someplace else and been in debt up to my ears.I liked having a close-to-home, inexpensive place to go to college, but be able to get a complete degree in the field I was interested in.”

Loase’s nephew, Nick Wittenbrook, also recently completed a bachelor’s degree at OUE.

“They’re very invested in the students there,” Yonak agreed. “It’s a smaller campus. They want to see their students succeed. There was a lot of help and resources. It was definitely a good environment. That’s a nice thing about OUE, you don’t get lost in the population. You get to know all your professors one-on-one. You get direct assistance and clarification with work.”

In addition to these and other OUE graduates who are currently employed at Union Local, many of the district’s retired teachers and administrators completed part or all of their university studies at OUE.


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