The thought of a science class used to make Seymour High School senior Alex Lovins cringe.

The subject was difficult and not interesting and by his own admission made him “slightly ill.”

That’s until Lovins, a Seymour Scholar, set foot in Rick Schuley’s chemistry class as a sophomore at Seymour High School.

“When I had Mr. Schuley, that all changed,” he said.

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In fact, Lovins liked the class so much, he signed up for the Advanced Placement course the next year.

Lovins’ major when he attends Indiana Wesleyan University this fall? Chemistry.

That’s the kind of impact one teacher can have on a student’s life, and Sunday evening, Seymour Community Schools gave this year’s Seymour Scholars an opportunity to thank teachers they deemed the most influential in their young academic careers.

Lovins was quick to admit that Schuley should take all of the credit for his interest in the subject.

“(Majoring in chemistry) is definitely something I wouldn’t be doing if it weren’t for Mr. Schuley,” he said following the program.

Schuley said that’s exactly what teachers hope for when they are faced with a new class each semester.

“That’s kind of what you hope you can do,” he said. “Sometimes, they say you hope you can trick them into learning, and you know the science comes with the fact that you try to make it enjoyable.”

Lovins said Schuley’s ability to teach while keeping the classroom lighthearted makes for a good learning environment.

“His stories are the best,” he said. “He really cuts loose in the classroom.”

Lovins reminisced about a time when Schuley let the class try to build a smoke bomb and the project failed.

“We lit it, and the wick wouldn’t burn at all,” Lovins said.

Schuley said Lovins had approached him about trying to build the smoke bomb, and Schuley obliged.

“I just said, ‘Hey, let’s see what we can do with it,’” Lovins said.

But Schuley was quick to say Lovins may have fun in his class, but he is always busy and takes his studies serious.

“The last five minutes of class, I give them a chance to put everything away for the day, but Alex is always there working,” he said. “In my first year with him, I probably wouldn’t have put him up there where he ended up the second year. I thought he enjoyed it, but he really turned it on that second year through perseverance and going that extra mile to make sure he understood and make sure the material made sense to him.”

Schuley, who has been in education for 38 years, has been selected before and said the award is an honor and motivating.

“It’s what keeps me going,” he said. “I tell my wife that these are the things that keep me going, and a couple years ago, I was thinking about leaving, and I think I got two and decided I couldn’t.”

Schuley stayed but didn’t receive recognition last year.

“I thought maybe I should go then, but now, I guess he has made me hang around,” he said with a laugh.

Sara Bane agreed that being selected is a rewarding experience for any teacher. Bane, an environmental science teacher at Seymour High School, was selected by three Seymour Scholars as their most influential teacher.

“We have so many day-to-day interactions with students that we don’t necessarily get to hear how we have influenced them, so it’s really stuff like this that keeps you going,” she said. “I’m very honored, but these kids are such great kids that they make it easy to teach.”

Bane has been picked before in the past and was selected by Seymour Scholars Kyle Combs, Lauren Fleetwood and Sarah Montgomery.

Bane said she feels she learned more from those three than what they did from her.

“I took lessons away from each of them,” she said.

Combs taught her about resilience because he lost his father, and Bane said Combs has such a positive attitude and outlook on life. She said he also is thinking about others and including everyone he can. Bane said she noticed at this year’s prom how he interacted with multiple groups and made sure everyone was included.

Bane said Fleetwood renewed her belief in always giving the best effort possible.

“Lauren taught me that you have to go after everything with everything you’ve got,” she said. “Whether it’s a tiny quiz or big test, you can’t do anything halfway.”

Bane said Montgomery took an ailing recycling effort at the school from being nearly extinct to being a productive program for the school.

“She met with administration, custodians, people in the community and she made it happen,” she said. “Sarah taught me that age and gender are not barriers to success.”

Greg Prange, principal at Seymour High School, said the program is important to give teachers the appreciation they deserve. He said teachers care deeply about the students they have in the classroom like their own.

“Too many times, teachers are not recognized for the sacrifices they make for their students,” he said. “Just as a shepherd tends his flock, teachers care for their students much like their own children. I challenge teachers to continually strive to make a difference in their students’ lives.”

Prange said sometimes, it is years later before a teacher knows of the impact. That was the case for several teachers Sunday evening, as some students selected elementary and middle school teachers with some even being retired.

“Sometimes, that reward doesn’t appear until years later when the student has grown into an adult,” he said.

Prange spoke about the feeling of seeing former students with children who are currently students in the school system.

“Many of my former students are now the parents of our current students,” he said. “To have a former student come back and tell you how important you were to them gives a teacher a feeling that money can’t buy. It’s indescribable.”

Prange said the extra effort from teachers at Seymour makes them special. He said he knows of two teachers in the last week who have helped students at the library after school just to help keep them on top of their work.

“They don’t get paid extra to do this, and they weren’t asked to volunteer their own time, time that is spent helping a student and not spent with their family,” he said. “They understand that sometimes, sacrifices must be made. They have hearts of champions, and I’m proud they are my teachers.”

At a glance

Seymour Scholars and their selections of most influential teacher are listed below.

Marie Armes: Trudi Disque

William Bauserman: Randy Fife

Rachel Collett: Melissa Wagner

Kyle Combs: Sara Bane

Hallie Crenshaw: Kimberly Fee

McKenna Curry: Chris Kleber

Mya Findley: Nikki Storey

Lauren Fleetwood: Sara Bane

Grant Handloser: Sandy Mellencamp

Peyton Heyne: Mary Sentz

Lauren James: Wayne Huddleston

Marie Lenart: Wayne Woodard

Alex Lovins: Rick Schuley

Victoria Mahoney: Maria Hauersperger

Sarah Montgomery: Sara Bane

Katie O’Mara: Kevin Cottrill

Lanci Phillips: Ann Tormoehlen

Mason Pottschmidt: Matt Dennis

Christy Stevens: Ann Tormoehlen

Jennie Stuart: Kevin Cottrill

Kyle Valencia: Tracy Buchanan

Anastasiya Yakovlyeva: Dave Boggs

At a glance

Requirements to be a Seymour Scholar

1. Satisfy all requirements for an Indiana Core 40 with Academic Honors Diploma.

2. Earn a minimum of 54 credits.

3. Earn a minimum of 36 academic credits with eight each in English, mathematics and science and six each in social studies and world languages.

4. Earn a minimum of 11 credits in Advanced Placement courses with no grades lower than a B.

5. Earn a minimum grade-point average of 4.90 or higher for the 54 qualifying credits.

Students must take at least one AP course in the four core subject areas of English, math, science and social studies. Students also must take a minimum of one AP exam in each of the four core subject areas.

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Jordan Richart is a correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.