Justin Zoellick, a fifth-grade teacher at Clintonville Middle School, has won a 2015 LifeChanger of the Year award.
He was one of 10 chosen from 600 nominees.
The LifeChanger of the Year award “is an annual program that recognizes and rewards K-12 education professionals and school district employees.”
Zoellick was presented his award at a surprise school assembly at the Clintonville Middle School, Friday, March 27.
Tracy King, senior marketing specialist for National Life Group, and Doug Trumbower, president of Wealth & Insurance Strategies presented the award to Zoellick.
Prior to presenting the award, King said of Zoellick and the other award winners, “Those are teachers who do amazing, outstanding work with their students.”
King also spoke kindly of the Wise Guys group Zoellick formed three years ago.
When King announced the Zoellick was chosen for the award, the students in attendance applauded. Some also had signs showing their support for Zoellick.
Zoellick was nominated by Heather Heilman, a 4K teacher at Dellwood Early Learning Center in Clintonville. She was also present at the ceremony.
For winning the award, Zoellick will receive $1,500. Clintonville Middle School will also receive $1,500.
When the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette interviewed Zoellick after he was nominated for the award, he said he was surprised and honored to be nominated.
After receiving the award, Zoellick said he was excited and his heart was pounding.
“Seeing everybody up there [in the audience], that was really cool, seeing all the signs. It kind of makes it all real,” Zoellick said.
Even though the assembly was a surprise, Zoellick said his suspicions were raised.
“Kids don’t keep secrets well either,” he said. “I had an inkling it was coming it was still pretty neat to see. I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Zoellick said he was speechless about the reaction the students had after it was announced he won the award.
“Seeing them get up, it makes you feel good knowing that they do care and that it is making a difference,” he said.
Scott Werfal, principal at Clintonville Middle School, said Zoellick winning the award is well deserved.
“Justin does a ton of good in the community, specifically with the kids at the middle school,” Werfal said.
He added, “I’m glad that we could all share it with him in the gym here and all the kids could see it.”
The positive reaction by the students didn’t surprise Werfal.
“I think that was the reason he was nominated,” Werfal said. “Kids love what he’s doing. He connects really well with kids. That’s why he gets such good results in the classroom. He just develops great relationships with the kids.”
The reputation of the middle school isn’t the best in the community, and Werfal is hoping this will help change that.
“Winning an award like this, a teacher in our building, hopefully is just a springboard to showing even more of the positive things we are doing with the kids every single day,” Werfal said.
Zoellick also said the award wouldn’t have been possible without the help of others in the district.
“I couldn’t do it without the support of the staff here in Clintonville because any of the teachers are involved in all different aspects. The administration is involved, the school board is involved, and really the kids,” Zoellick said. “The kids are the ones that want to come back [to the Wise Guys group], the ones that want to join, the ones that want to be there. And they’re the ones that are making a difference out there, which is what the whole program is all about, getting them to look at the world around them and make a difference one at a time.”