WELLSBURG — A Brooke High School teacher who applied his private sector work experience to help students prepare for the job market was among several staff and students recognized by the Brooke County School Board on Monday .
It was a good year for Thomas Bane, who was named Brooke County Schools Teacher of the Year and West Virginia SKILLS USA Advisor of the Year.
Bane, who teaches high school engineering, had worked as a computer programmer and financial analyst, among other things, in South Florida when he was attracted by a classified ad for a job teaching at a private school.
The Burgettstown native recalled learning math with Marge Cowden, a fourth-grade teacher at the old Eldersville Elementary School, and being able to help his classmates with their work.
“Thanks to his influence, I became an engineer and a teacher”, said Bane, now in his 23rd year of teaching.
After teaching in private school, he was able to use his workforce experience and graduate credits from Marshall University to secure career technical educator positions first in the county of Mingo, W.Va., and later Brooke High School, where he was employed for five years.
Since coming to school, he has served as an advisor for the school’s chapter of SKILLS USA, a national organization that encourages students to develop personal and professional skills that will serve them well in their future careers.
Under Bane and co-counsellor Autumn Beatty, the chapter became the first in West Virginia to be named a model of excellence by the national organization.
He said the honor is the result of the hard work of past and present students in the chapter.
Bane noted that about five members, mostly in the engineering program, worked to recruit others, bringing the club’s membership to 40 students enrolled in nine high school career preparation programs.
Members have participated in a variety of competitions at the regional, state and national levels.
At the SKILLS USA State Conference held at Fairmont State University in March, gold medals were won by Alexis Woodling, for his knowledge of first aid/cardiopulmonary resuscitation; and Kyrsten Myers, for his knowledge of early childhood education.
The school’s other state winners were: Thomas Olenick, who won a bronze medal for technical drawing; and Izabella Jordan, who won a silver medal for medical terminology.
The categories reflect the wide range of vocational skills acquired by students in the group, which are incorporated into the school’s vocational technical training program.
But Bane said participating in this program also teaches students about leadership, teamwork and community service.
He said the Brooke SKILLS USA chapter ranks among the top eight in the nation for leadership training activities. He added that at a time when the pandemic limited most students’ school participation in virtual home schooling, members collected approximately 1,000 canned goods and toiletries for Urban Mission Ministries in Steubenville and partnered to the school’s Technology Students of America chapter to participate in the Adopt-a-Highway Program.
Bane said that as a teacher and counselor, he sees his role as a guide to help students master their skills and pursue their goals as a group.
“They make the decisions. My job is to help them along the way,” he said, adding “It’s all the kids. It’s my job to be their cheerleader.
Bane said he was honored to be named County Teacher of the Year by colleagues at Brooke High School, which he said has many dedicated and caring teachers.
Superintendent Jeffrey Crook and the school board also recognized Theresa “JT” Taylor, attending Brooke Primary North, as the District Service Staff of the Year.
The honor goes to staff who support school operations as secretaries, nurses, bus drivers and other non-teaching positions.
Jo-Ellen Connolly, principal of the school, said Taylor had shown a high level of care for the special needs students she had worked with at the school since 2013.
“She loves it so much. She is so passionate about children that she attends West Liberty University to get a degree in special education,” said Connolly.
“I would like to be a special education teacher” confirmed Taylor, who also worked as a substitute for the school district.
She said she became interested in working with students with special needs in her youth through a nanny who had worked with them.
The board also recognized Lorelei Costlow, an eighth-grader at Brooke Middle School who placed first regionally at the West Virginia Social Studies Fair and third among hundreds of students competing at the the state.
Ryan Garbin, his teacher, said Costlow and other middle school students were asked to give a lecture and visual presentation, as individuals or as a team, on any social studies topic and were asked to document their resources. .
He said there was a wide range of topics, from the Black Death, which was discussed by Costlow, to the history of women’s football, which was covered by fellow Brooke Middle students Andrea Bolen and Ivy Myers. , who also participated in the regional event, which involved schools throughout the north of the enclave.
Costlow included in his presentation a map mapping the many areas affected by the plague and a leather mask worn by doctors with a distinctive bird-shaped beak that contained herbs meant to filter infected air.
School officials also noted that Brooke Middle School was named a Distinguished Gateway School by Project Lead the Way, a national non-profit organization that provides a curriculum for schools designed to encourage students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Lead the Way project units include Automation and Robots, Building Computer Applications, Energy and Environment, Flight and Space, Green Architecture, and Medical Detectives.
Brooke Middle is one of 134 schools across the United States to receive this honor because it offers at least one unit for grades 6-8, over 50% of their students have participated in a unit during the 2020-21 school year, and at least 25 percent of their students have participated in two units.
The school’s participation in the program is coordinated by faculty members Keith Huntzinger, Amy Ludewig, Julie Dennis and Kim Nielsen.
Ludewig said, “We are very happy with this honour. We have worked with the county school board office to ensure that our students are offered a wide range of electives that will connect to building a strong foundation for high school, college, and careers.
In other business, the board accepted a $125,932 bid from Lauttamus Communications and Security to replace the electronic key entry system for all county schools. Steve Mitchell, the district’s building and grounds supervisor, said the current system will become obsolete.
The council also accepted an offer of $326,860 from Combustion Services and Equipment Co. to update the district’s computer-managed heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
(Scott can be contacted at [email protected])