Monday, November 28, 2016


With Thanksgiving break almost over, I thought it’d be appropriate to share some of the many aspects I’m thankful for at Vantage Career Center. If you’ve read any of my past postings, you have probably realized that there are simply too many great things happening around here to list them all in one post. However, I’ll try to share some of the most recent and memorable items we can all appreciate.

First, I’m thankful that our staff and students were so willing to donate their time, money, and sense of humor to our Haiti Carnival last Monday afternoon. With all of the games and events put together (led by our Interact Club), we raised over $2,200 for our carpentry class in Haiti. A large chunk of that came from the creative fund-raising efforts of Miss Sarah Wurth and Mrs. Ashley Cline in what I can only accurately describe as the “shake it out staff embarrassment contest” (if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth looking for in the Facebook archives). I also want to make sure we show our appreciation to Mr. Darrell Miller, Mr. Mike Knott, and Mr. Ted Verhoff for participating in the event despite what they called “mischievous tactics” on the part of our Interact Club advisors (claims which those advisors say are completely unsubstantiated). Either way, a great time was had by all in the name of raising money for an excellent cause! Thanks to all who participated!

Shortly after the Carnival ended, our entire staff helped clean and set-up our commons area for parent-teacher conferences. As usual, it was awesome to see and have the opportunity to talk with so many parents (and in many cases, the students came along) about their child’s progress to this point in the school year. It truly shows the level of commitment and care that parents have for their kids. That care and willingness to discuss any improvements their child might be able to make helps us continue to improve, as well. As educators, meeting and speaking with parents (and their kids) gives us a better understanding of how we’re all in this together. That’s certainly something to be Thankful

I am also thankful for our staff who were able to help out a community member who was recently diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer. If you do not know Mike Chesbro, he is a husband, father of 5 children, and a powerful mentor for the children within the Van Wert and surrounding communities. Vantage helped out tremendously by donating $225.00 and 10 used chromebooks. Those chromebooks were auctioned off at the 11/26/16 Benefit and brought in $820.00! Vantage helped bring him over $1000.00 in total cash. Billy Watson and Derrek Moran (who helped organize the benefit), as well as Mike and Amanda Chesbro, were overwhelmed and so thankful for our kindness and support.

Finally, I’m once again Thankful for our students and their willingness to help in our communities. For example, three of our National Technical Honor Society students volunteered to help set up the festivities for this Sunday’s (December 4th) “Christmas in Kalida” event at the Kalida Park. Not only did they give up three hours of a Saturday to help, but they did so early in a morning where temperatures didn’t hit 40 degrees and the rain/wind made it feel like Flick’s tongue would have stuck to the closest flagpole (did I mention I’m also Thankful that movies like “A Christmas Story” will be all over TV for the next month?). My sister Katie (who is on the event committee) proclaimed that she “lost feeling in her fingers until about 2 o’clock”. However, she also let me know how much they appreciated the help and how impressed they were that none of our students ever complained. For that; Ryan Hoersten, Angela Tenwalde, and Madison Shephard deserve a big Thank You for representing Vantage Career Center in such a positive light.

I’m truly grateful to be associated with such an amazing group of students, staff, and administrators here at Vantage. Have a phenomenal rest of the week, and Go Buckeyes! (Oh yeah, I’m also thankful that we will all get to see Mr. Darrell Miller in Scarlet and Gray ALL DAY tomorrow!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Mr. Kent Taylor

This past week, Vantage lost one of our own.  Mr. Kent Taylor, who taught Electricity with us for a very long time, passed away.  Even though Mr. Taylor retired a few years ago, he liked to come back and be a substitute with us whenever he could.  So, while none of our students had the awesome experience of having Mr. Taylor as their full-time instructor, many of our current Seniors got to know him as a sub in several of their classes last year.  While they didn't have Mr. Taylor every day, he made a profound influence on several of them.  We know this because when it came time to pay our final respects as Mr. Taylor's funeral procession passed by Vantage, many of them asked if they could go outside as well.
As we walked out of the building, I overheard several students talking about some fact or tidbit that Mr. Taylor had taught them about when he was a sub in one of their classes last year.  As I overheard these conversations, I just kept thinking about all of the articles, stories, and lesson ideas Kent shared with me in my six years as a Military History and Government teacher here.  I know it was my job to be an expert in those areas, but I'll be the first to admit that Mr. Taylor would have been just as qualified to teach my classes as I was.  There are probably five or six other teachers in the building who feel the same way.  Kent knew so much about so many things, and he was always willing to share.  Not only was he willing to share what he knew, but he did so with a smile on his face in a way that you always felt like he was teaching you something new.  I don't even think he was trying, but that's just how he was: a natural teacher.
It's always tough to lose someone that you know and care about, and Mr. Taylor is no exception.  The first time I recall losing someone close to me was in seventh grade when my Grandpa Jim Wurth passed away.  I'll never forget the family sitting around grandpa's kitchen table laughing, crying, and everything in between as they told stories about his life.  That night, I remember my uncle telling me how great stories keep us alive forever.
With that in mind, I'll conclude with my favorite Kent Taylor story.  One of the first times Kent tried to share a military history article with me, it was an article on a CD about his distant cousin (according to Kent) President Zachary Taylor.  Kent knew I could use it in military history to help explain the historic relevance of the Mexican-American War.  However, when I put the CD into my computer the first time, nothing happened (other than that loud "whirr" sound that you hear when your computer tries to recognize a new CD).  I asked Kent (who was standing beside me) what he thought the issue might be.  Without missing a beat he said "that's actually a virus...good luck explaining that to I-T!".  Then, of course, he went back to his desk and got his original copy of the CD with the article on it.  The second one worked, and Kent and I sat and talked about Zach Taylor's Presidency and role in the Mexican-American War.  I had gained a new lesson for years to come, and a story to share forever.  Thanks Kent!

Rest in Peace, Mr. Taylor.  Vantage, and our world, will miss you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Take time to Thank a Veteran

For the first two and a half years after college, I had the opportunity to work at WLIO-TV in Lima, Ohio (now called “Your Hometown Stations”). Election time was always a great time at the TV station. You might ask why. Well, it’s pretty simple: election time means LOTS of political ads. Lots of political ads mean more money for media outlets (like WLIO). One year, election time was enough to push us over our sales goal. Why do I tell that story? Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard many frustrated people talk about how they were tired of all the political ads. One person even told me that “no one likes political ads”. However, I am living proof that some people do like political ads (for various reasons). If I’m being 100% honest, though, I’ll admit that I also grew tired of some of the negativity surrounding both major political candidates this year. Regardless of your political preference, the election is now over. And to many, that brings a sigh of relief.

To me, however, the end of election day brings about an even more important day in our country: Veteran’s Day. A day when we officially make an effort to say a well-deserved “Thank You” to the men and women who have served (or are currently serving) in our military. Each and every one of us have been positively affected by the men and women who were willing to sacrifice their time, bodies, and (in some cases) their lives so we can live freely in this truly magnificent country of ours.

I like to ask our students if they know someone who has served, or is currently serving in the US military. Most of them say yes. At that point, we like to discuss who that person is/was, when and where they might have served, as well as whether or not they were involved in any wars overseas. I then like to encourage those students to let that person know how much you appreciate their time and efforts for our country. Many are glad to do it, and even have shared stories with me about how much it meant to their uncles, aunts, grandparents, or even their parents.

I’ve had a few students over the years, though, who have responded with something along the lines of “well, my dad was in the Air Force, but he never went to war or anything like that”. When I get that response, I like to remind the students about how little that detail matters. That person still signed up to defend and protect our country. He or she spent thousands of hours and dozens of holidays away from friends and family so they could be trained and ready to leave the freedoms, safety and protection our homeland provides to go fight so that the rest of us can continue to enjoy those amazing attributes. The fact that soldiers’ entire careers in the military have spanned “peacetime” in our country simply shows how deserving our military is of our praise and appreciation.

With that in mind, I encourage you to take time and find a way to Thank a Veteran or active duty service member in your life. You don’t have to wait until Friday. There are so many different ways to do it, and all of them are great. For example, I plan on visiting both my Grandpa James Wurth and Grandpa Richard Unverferth (both of whom served in WW2) at the cemetery in Kalida tonight. I also like to visit Mr. Norman Becker in the Colverdale cemetery (my wife Erica's Grandpa) who also served in WW2. I don’t know what I’ll say (I never do before I get there), but I know I’ll say “Thanks again” (like I do every year). I would also like to say Thanks to friends and family who have served and are still with us (Thankfully): Bill and Aloe Adams, Peter and Vicki Fahlgren, Bruce Giesige, Zach Weber, Michael Boehmer (still serving in the US Air Force). I truly appreciate what you’ve given up to serve our country.

At Vantage Career Center, we have four staff members who have served our country in the US military. A sincere “Thank You” to Mr. Darrell Miller, Mr. Larry Regedanz, Mrs. Amy Grothouse, Mr. Pete Weir, and the dozens of former Vantage students who have served or are currently serving in our armed forces. Our country is a better and safer place because of your time and efforts. Our school is also a better place because you chose to come here. Thank you again.

Again, please take some time to show your own appreciation to our service men and women. No matter how you do it, it will mean a lot to that person. Our current students have done an excellent job so far of showing just how much Vantage appreciates our military.

Our Student Ambassadors are once again selling flags in honor of veterans and active duty service members. The flags go for a $1 donation, and will be placed in our “flag field”. Students and staff can also write a personalized message of thanks on our big white board (both the flag field and board are pictured...they are unfinished, as of today, but will be full by Friday). The board, flag field, and banner will all be on display in front of our building for Veterans Day. Last year, our flag field project raised $250 for the Van Wert VFW. This year’s proceeds will go directly to the Van Wert American Legion. Next year, we will pick another Veterans’ service agency from one of our communities to donate to. If you’d like to donate a flag (or two) in honor of a loved one, feel free to contact me or stop in to the Vantage High School Office.

Mr. Ray Gibson will also be putting up a “Table for one” in the commons on Veteran’s Day. This table honors fallen Veterans, and is an excellent way to raise awareness of just how many men and women have given the “ultimate sacrifice” while defending our country. Mr. Gibson plans on being available during both lunches Friday to explain it’s full meaning to the students. Many of our students already have a clear understanding of what that means, though.

For example, you’ll see a picture of the hood of a car to the left. Andrew Miller, a Vantage Junior Auto-Body student from Wayne Trace High School, created this hood. He designed, painted, and buffed this masterpiece in less than ten weeks at Vantage. While ten weeks might sound like a long time: keep in mind that Andrew knew “absolutely nothing” (in his own words) about painting, masking, priming, or auto-body design before he came to Vantage. That’s pretty amazing. Andrew credits Mr. Mike Villena for helping him learn about these concepts so quickly and accurately. He says he really enjoys his classes (especially his lab), and appreciates the military even more. He plans on joining the Marines after high school. His original hood design was the Marine Corps logo, but he thought that might be too difficult, so he went with the American flag design you see below (I think he could have handled the Marine logo, but I’m sure glad he chose this awesome design). He has even volunteered to make Vantage a “copy” of his hood. “This one’s coming home with me,” he says. Fair enough, I say.

Thank you all for your time. I know this was a long one, but I truly appreciate you taking the time to read and possibly share with a Veteran you know and love. One last big thanks to Andrew and all of the future, current and past military service members who have given so much to protect the United States of America.