WELLSBURG - Retired teacher Betty Lou Harris said the individuals whose names appear on the plaque for the Brooke County Schools Wall of Fame received that honor because "they went above and beyond their regular duties and made a lasting impression on students."
Harris, who chairs the Wall of Fame committee that accepts nominations from the public each year, noted the inductees have included not only teachers and principals but also coaches, school secretaries, cafeteria workers and custodians.
The diversity of honorees was no different this year.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION — Six former school employees were inducted to the Brooke County Schools Wall of Fame Monday in recognition of their impact on the school district and its students. Participating were, from left, inductees Carol Churchman and Irene Hilt; Diane Higgins, accepting for her late husband, Paul; inductee Martha Hanes; Jane Verner, accepting for John Hubert McCracken; and John J. Pizzuti, accepting for his late father, John L. Pizzuti. -- Warren Scott
Inducted at Monday's school board meeting were Carol Churchman, a fifth-grade teacher at Wellsburg Middle School for 35 years; Martha Hanes, who served as a cook, aide and secretary at Franklin Primary School during her 31-year career; the late Paul Higgins, a social studies teacher at Brooke High School for 38 years who also championed education as a state delegate; Irene Hilt, an aide and cook during her 30-year tenure at Franklin Primary; the late John Hubert McCracken, whose many roles over 26 years included teacher, coach and principal at Wellsburg High School and food services director for the school district; and the late John L. Pizzuti, a physical education and industrial arts teacher at Edgewood School who followed his retirement with nearly 10 years as a substitute teacher.
Suzanne Davidson, a fellow teacher, described Churchman as "a respected educator and community leader" who over the years has drawn raves from many pupils and parents who noted the encouragement she offered to all who entered her classroom.
Davidson noted Churchman also has volunteered her time to many civic groups.
Churchman, who continues to serve as a substitute teacher, thanked Brooke County school officials, past and present, for "a career I truly loved," adding teaching children has been a pleasure for her.
Mark Ross said while working as a custodian at Franklin Primary, he came to see Hanes as a mother figure and he wasn't alone.
Harris, who taught at Franklin, said Hanes was not only a secretary but a surrogate mother or grandmother for many pupils, as she cheerfully performed such tasks as counting lunch money or tending to a sick child, and knew much about each pupil, from the bus they rode to the names of their siblings and parents.
Higgins' former daughter-in-law and student, Kari, said she's encountered many who considered him their best teacher. She said he taught the importance of the political process both in the classroom and as adviser to the political science club he formed at the school, but also through his involvement in it, as a state delegate for two terms and member and leader of the Brooke County Education Association, West Virginia Education Association and National Education Association.
His wife, Diane, recalled her husband loved teaching and "always left for work with a whistle and a smile."
Mary Cay Lyle, a former teacher at Franklin Primary, said not only did Hilt prepare homemade pizza, macaroni and cheese and other food in the school's kitchen, but she also entered the classroom to teach children to make their own bread and other food.
Lyle recalled how Hilt encouraged children to partake of the hot lunches by offering rewards from a treasure chest that included prizes ranging from small toys or school supplies to serving as her helper for the day, a role they enjoyed.
For her success at promoting the school's hot lunches, Hilt was named West Virginia School Cook of the Year in 1986, Lyle noted.
Jane Verner, who nominated McCracken on behalf of his five granddaughters, who live away, noted after serving in the Navy in World War II, he went to work at Wellsburg High School.
Over the years when he wasn't serving as a teacher, coach and principal at the school and food service director for the school district, he served in the Navy Reserve, earning the rank of lieutenant commander. He also was a Wellsburg councilman and mayor.
Churchman said she was a student when McCracken was principal and recalled that while he had a strict military manner, he also was kind and had "a beautiful smile."
Stephanie Kirchner, Pizzuti's niece and one of several who nominated him, said her uncle's pupils didn't have to be a star student or athlete to be remembered by him years after graduation.
His son, John J. Pizzuti, said his father worked the scoreboard at the Brooke girls basketball games. He noted that following his death, coach John Leary suggested the school's holiday basketball tournament be named in his honor because his father was known for the words of encouragement he offered all of the players.
Joyce Rea, the school district's special education director, said when she started at Edgewood, Pizzuti became her mentor, teaching her to remain calm when dealing with difficult students, and was "one of the best friends I could ever have."
Pizzuti also was a Follansbee councilman for many years, was instrumental in the opening of the Brooke County Library's Follansbee branch and served on the Friends of the Library.
Board President Jim Piccirillo thanked the Wall of Fame committee for its efforts and the recipients and nominees for their involvement.
Referring to the honorees, he said, "You may notice that every one of these people was positive toward a child. They made the children feel good."