Four Willard High School teachers — Courtney Carnahan (English), Tiffany Nuhfer (agriculture) Jason Ratliff (health and Teen Leadership Corps) and Cathy Weaver (social studies and history) — have received the Excellence in Community Service award for their continuing efforts in honoring veterans and active military personnel in the community. Their awards came from the northwest region of the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), which covers 20 counties.
Willard City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ritz said he couldn’t be prouder of the four and everybody involved with the program.
“You have to surround yourself with good people and I have great people doing great things,” Ritz said. “It was the most impactful presentation I have seen. I had tears in my eyes. I was crying. The students and other staff members who go unmentioned play just as an important role. It isn’t just all of them. The four are great leaders and this is a great community event.”
The recognition came as a surprise to the foursome during halftime of Friday’s Willard varsity boys’ basketball game. The teachers and students already had organized the school’s part in the statewide Ohio High School Athletic Association military appreciation night.
“On Friday it was a complete surprise. We had no idea,” Carnahan said. “It was awesome.”
Willard school board member Rick Willoughby had nominated the teachers. He and Judy May, of the OSBA, were part of the halftime recognition. Also, seven active military personnel and veterans gave the awards to Carnahan, Nuhfer, Ratliff and Weaver. The veterans included Willard City Manager Jim Ludban (U.S. Army) and Huron County Sheriff Todd Corbin (U.S. Marine Corps).
“It was really cool,” said Carnahan, whose husband, Bryan, is a U.S. Navy veteran. “He was in the Navy four years and served during Desert Storm.”
As part of the military appreciation night, student artwork and uniforms from the various branches were on display. Three televisions also showed videos of various military events in Willard City Schools, such as Honor Flight, the annual Honor Run 5K and the district Veterans Day program, which includes participation from all grade levels.
“Veterans got in free,” Carnahan said, referring to the military appreciation night.
Carnahan and Weaver advise the WHS student council. Nuhfer is the FFA adviser while Ratliff oversees Teen Leadership Corps. For the last three years, they have combined their efforts in organizing various military appreciation events.
“If it wasn’t for the kids, none of this could happen,” said Ratliff, who credited “countless” teachers and students for working behind the scenes. “Our kids do so much for the veterans; we just give them guidance, but it’s our kids who come through.”
The veterans and military personnel in attendance at the Jan. 17 game honored the teachers with a salute.
Ratliff called the experience “breathtaking,” “pretty emotional” and “pretty special” since they were honored by people he respects.
“It was very emotional. Unexpected,” said Ratliff, whose father, Jim, served in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Carnahan had a similar reaction to the salutes.
“That’s the highest honor,” she said. “That’s something none of us will ever forget.”