Above & Beyond Teacher Recognition

At the heart of what we love about our schools here in  Mason are hard-working teachers and staff who regularly go the extra mile for our kids.  This award is given annually to Mason teachers who exemplify the values of the Mason Schools Foundation by taking students “Above and Beyond”. 

The annual award is traditionally given to two teachers (one elementary (K-6) and one secondary (7-12)) who exemplify the values of the Foundation by taking their students “Above and Beyond.”  THIS YEAR – we will be granting one teacher from each building (MECC, ME, MI, MMS, MHS) this award. Each winner will receive a $250 grant to use during the next school year. Award winners will be announced in May and be recognized at the fall MSF Gala.


In the spring of each school year the Foundation will solicit nominations from the community for the award. Community members use this form to describe how this teacher takes his/her students “Above and Beyond” and return it to the Mason Schools Foundation.

  1. The Mason Schools Foundation will select the recipients at the May board meeting.
  2. Grants will be awarded during the Staff Appreciation event at the end of the year.
  3. Funding will be available at the beginning of the following school year.
  4. Recipients will be asked to submit a grant report form to the Grant committee indicating how he/she used the funds to benefit our Mason students.

Above & Beyond Teacher Award Winners 2023

Christie Loucks

Mason High School Teacher of the Year

For 20 years Mrs. Loucks has been teaching at Mason High School where she was hired to start the ASL program. Her classes are made up mostly of freshman and sophomores. Prior to teaching, Mrs. Loucks was a 1:1 Support Ed Aide for a student with multiple disabilities which included hearing loss at Worthington Elementary School.
Although living all over Ohio, Christie Loucks was raised a Cincinnati girl. She loves the Cincinnati Reds and the Bengals. “Who Dey!” she cheered. She also loves Xavier Basketball. Christie attended Kent State University, initially unsure of a career path. She tried out a few majors ranging from labor and delivery nursing, ASL interpreting and deaf education before finally graduating with a BS in ASL education. “I found a strong connection to ASL through my high school ASL teacher who was deaf,” Christie shared. “I loved teaching anyone signs and decided to make a career out of what I love.” She then went on to receive a Master of Arts degree in School Counseling from Xavier University.
Mrs. Loucks has been married to her husband Craig for 17 years. Together they have 2 children. Jack is a rising 9th grader and Annie, a rising 7th grader. They also have a family dog named Mortimer. Mrs. Loucks loves to vacation in North Carolina, to spend time catching up with close friends and to cook for her family. She also enjoys attending cooking classes or watching cooking shows on tv. When not traveling or cooking, you may find Mrs. Loucks cheering on her daughter, a Comet Skipper or her son who will be part of the Mason High School Marching Band next year.
Christie Loucks finds it rewarding being the only ASL teacher in the district. “I especially like that I get to track with my students and have them for 2 years,” she shared. “The bonds and friendships forged in the classroom have been amazing and fruitful.” Mrs. Loucks spends time personalizing learning around the interests and passions of her students. She communicates clearly and often with them and their parents and uses her relationship with the deaf community to provide opportunities to take learning outside of the classroom. One example, students are able to attend monthly dinners hosted by the deaf community. It is a unique opportunity to be able to practice what they are learning in class.
“Mrs. Loucks is a proactive educator that goes Above and Beyond in every aspect of her classroom,” said parent Jana Surace. “Her warm and friendly personality allows her students to feel included, and no matter how difficult the pace of the material, she makes her classroom fun and engaging,” Jana added.
Mrs. Loucks is a Mason Schools Foundation Grant recipient. Several years ago she received grant funding to hire a deaf storyteller and performer. “We sold out the Mason Middle School auditorium and publicized the evening to all Tri-state secondary and post secondary schools that offer ASL classes,” she shared. “I’m excited about the prospect to bring back something like this again!”

Kelly Tinsley

Mason Middle School Teacher of the Year 

This month Mrs. Tinsley finished her 10th year of teaching. She has taught in Mason City Schools for 3 years and in the Middle School for the past two where she teaches 7th grade math and Comet connections. When not in the classroom Mrs. Tinsley enjoys spending time with her family. She and her husband Jim spend many hours watching their boys’ sporting events, hearing all about Nintendo games and staying active. “I really enjoy being outside in all its forms but specifically hiking, kayaking and walking our dog, Obi,” she shared.
In the middle of her teaching career Mrs. Tinsley stepped away from the classroom to raise her three boys. During this time she was involved with Capernaum, an organization which gave her the opportunity to work with students that have special needs. Time with these students led her to pursue a special education certificate prior to returning back to the classroom. This along with “helping my own son navigate school also gave me perspective on how to best include students that typically struggle through the school day,” she shared. “I am always looking for ways to create class communities where all can contribute and grow.”
“Mrs. Tinsley is the definition of a saint on earth!” was expressed by one parent in her nomination. Another shared, “Our child has experienced severe mental health challenges and Mrs. Tinsley helped them not only recognize that they are not only safe and stable at school but capable of greatness.” The nomination went on to show how impressed parents were that Mrs. Tinsley would call home prior to the start of the school year to discuss a child’s needs. She always responds to team emails when a counselor or other teacher could easily address the situation instead. And, she works tirelessly to ensure her students feel safe and loved. When a student began to excel academically parents shared that they never thought it would be possible. “Mrs. Tinsley recognizes that mental health comes first and if managed we can progress learning,” they said.
After presenting Kelly Tinsley as Teacher of the Year she humbly shared, “I feel very fortunate to be in a district that values innovation and inclusive education. The teachers at MMS are so creative and fiercely committed to doing what is best for students. I am definitely a better teacher because of my time in this building.”
Kelly Tinsley clearly goes ‘Above and Beyond’ daily for her students both in and out of the classroom. She exudes the values of The Foundation and it was our honor to present her as Teacher of the Year at MMS!
“The Mason Schools Foundation has been a constant positive presence within the Mason community,” Mrs. Tinsley shared. “Their efforts have made a meaningful impact in lives of all connected to Mason City Schools. I am just so grateful for the gift and the award.”


Michelle Tiffner

Mason Intermediate School Teacher of the Year

Mrs. Tiffner is a week away from concluding her 27th year of teaching. After receiving her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from The Ohio State University, she started her career at Mason Middle School where she taught 7th grade Language Arts for eight years. She then moved to Mason Intermediate School where she currently teaches 5th grade Social Studies on Team Pioneers.
“I feel very lucky to be in such a great district that has amazing teachers, students, parents and administrators that are so supportive.” Mrs. Tiffner shared. We are certain many parents feel the same way about their children being in her classroom! In fact, MI parent Suni Sivaramakrishnan, was excited to nominate Mrs. Tiffner, who is known to be supportive and encouraging to all of her students, for this prestigious award. She regularly builds their confidence to step out of their comfort zone as a learner. “Mrs. Tiffner is also very patient and listens to each child,” Suni shared.
In her spare time Mrs. Tiffner loves hanging out with her family and taking their dogs on walks. She also enjoys planning family vacations which is usually to Disney. Mrs. Tiffner has a son who attends the University of Cincinnati and a daughter who will be joining him there in the fall.
Mason Schools Foundation Board Members were honored to present Mrs. Tiffner as Teacher of the Year at the May staff meeting at MI. Michelle shared, “The Mason Schools Foundation is a truly fabulous organization that supports and honors teachers and gives so much back to this community. I was very honored to be recognized by the Foundation.”

Jami Conway

Mason Elementary School Teacher of the Year

Mrs. Conway is finishing up her 32nd year of teaching. Most of her experience has been in the 3rd grade classroom, where she currently teaches all subjects. She has also taught preschool, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade. She graduated from the University of Louisville and went on to receive a Master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati. She also has her Gifted Teaching Endorsement. Mrs. Conway and her husband have been married for 32 years and have two daughters. In her spare time, Mrs. Conway enjoys biking, walking, gardening, decorating and cooking.
Mrs. Conway cares about her students in a way that extends beyond the classroom. “She’s interested in her students as a whole; emotionally and academically,” shared parent Kanasha Reyes, who nominated her for this award. “Confidence is a missing ingredient in so many classrooms and she sees the value of having students who believe in themselves.”
We had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. Conway after presenting her with Teacher of the Year. She said, “Teachers have so many roles, but I feel like the most important role of the teacher is to make personal connections with each student.” She went on to say, “I also feel that it is important to not only teach academics, but to teach the students how to be good citizens and learn how to solve conflict. Those skills, along with academics will help them throughout life.” Kanasha Reyes could not agree more and added, “My daughter has grown leaps and bounds because of the safety, love and concern from her teacher. It allows everyone to feel cared for and focus on achieving success at school.”
It is evident that Jami Conway goes Above and Beyond, both in and out of the classroom each and every day. “We have so many wonderful teachers (in the district) who show up and work hard to do these things every single day. That is why I feel honored to have received this award because I feel like every single teacher that I work with at Mason Elementary deserves it.” shared Mrs. Conway.

Rachel Shearer

Mason Early Childhood Center Teacher of the Year

Mrs. Shearer started her teaching career a bit later than most and is finishing up her 17th year here in Mason. Luckily for the district, MECC families and students she has no plans for retirement in the future! “Why would I?” she shared. “I love what I do!” Mrs. Shearer is a 1st grade self contained teacher, teaching all subjects. “I have only taught first grade,” she teased. “Because that’s where the magic happens!” In her spare time Mrs. Shearer enjoys all things food related. “If I ever have a third career, it will have something to do with food!” she said. She enjoys taking cooking classes with her adult sons, watching cooking shows, and trying new restaurants. She also enjoys traveling and visiting her son Alexander who lives in Seattle.
With a journalism background, this once stay-at-home mom began pondering a teaching career while raising her three sons; Ethan, Evan, and Alexander who are now all Mason graduates and successful engineers. After volunteering and subbing a few times in the boys’ kindergarten and preschool classrooms Mrs. Shearer made the decision at 37 years old that she wanted to pursue licensure to teach early childhood. So, back to Miami University she went! A bit concerned of how to afford going back to school, Mrs. Shearer randomly won a $5000 Raisin Bran instant win cereal box contest. “No joke!” she exclaimed. “It paid for my first semester at Miami!” That instant win along with money from a former Broadcaster’s Educational Foundation enabled Mrs. Shearer to complete the rest of her early childhood coursework needed for a degree. “So, it was meant to be!” she said. Mrs. Shearer jokingly added, “I still frequently thank Ethan for his picky eating habits and for insisting on eating Raisin Bran every morning as a child.”
Mrs. Shearer not only tries to instill a love of learning in her first grade students but also a love of school. She strives to create a strong classroom community where her students are often found working in teams rather than with a partner. She believes this enables students to learn more about all of their classmates, making it easier to work together with the diversity in their groups and to learn to communicate and problem solve with their peers.
Just starting kindergarten one, of Mrs. Shearer’s sons was diagnosed with autism and speech delays. Despite a high IQ and capacity to learn, he lacked motivation and interest. He learned in a way that once Mrs. Shearer became a teacher, she quickly determined was a common need for all of her students as well, despite any learning challenges. “My teaching style has always been strongly influenced by my own, and my children’s early school experiences,” she shared. She found that much like Ethan’s lessons, most 1st grade students respond best when they are relevant, real-life, active, dramatic and fun. This is why you may often find Mrs. Shearer dressed in a doctor’s uniform, astronaut space suit, or camping outfit. She feels this helps bring excitement and motivation to lessons. “I try not to teach any skill in isolation where students wouldn’t be unable to understand the “why” of what they were learning,” she said. There isn’t anything  that Mrs. Shearer won’t do to make learning fun. “She helps students to do their best every single day!” exclaimed parent Pavan Kumar, who nominated Mrs. Shearer for Teacher of the Year.
Rachel Shearer is no stranger to Mason Schools Foundation. She is a huge supporter of our annual Reading Challenge and two-time grant recipient. For her first grant, a few years back, she and colleague Amy Zinnecker wrote a grant proposal for new STEM toys that are used daily in her classroom. Most recently, she was granted funding for Wordless Picture Books for all first grade teachers to use in their classrooms. “Using wordless picture books has allowed students of all abilities to talk about their ideas and predictions about the meaning that the author/illustrators are conveying,” Mrs. Shearer explained. “My students this year showed exponential growth in all of their language skills which I strongly correlate with the addition of wordless books in the classroom.”
One thing is certain, Rachel Shearer cares about each and every student who walks into her classroom and she goes ‘Above and Beyond’ to assure they have a positive and fun learning experience every day. For these reasons and many more she was unanimously chosen as Teacher of the Year at MECC.
Timothy King – MHS
Lisa Speiller – MMS
Litty Mathai – MI
Maggie Moschell – ME
Courtney Ryan – MECC
Jill Puma – MHS
Lindsay Nealis – MMS
Chelsea Wirtz – MI
Christine Toth – ME
Jamie Bunch – MECC
Avious Jackson – MHS
Renee McCord – MMS
Whitney Decker – MI
Terry Thacker – ME
Elizabeth Weddle – MECC


Vance Reid – MHS
Monica Johnston – MECC

Libby Beck – WR
Alissa Mahoney – MI
Laura Tonkin – MMS
Carol Lehman – MHS

Micah Ewing – MHS
Christine Yoda – MI

BJ Smallwood – MECC
Lazuta/Hillenmeyer Team – WR
Dee Dee Messer – MHS
Aimee Hansen – MHS
Lauren Richardson – MMS


Kelly Gholz – WR
Amy Ortega – MHS

Team Patriots- MI (Tereba, Grable, DeVore)
MMS Chorus—Debra Jones and Holly Schreier

Sarah Flohr—MECC
Anne Tohey—MHS

Mike Williams-WR
Susan Hannigan and Pam Tanghal-MMS

Ali Green -WR

Marylee Vennemeyer—WR
Jill Arminio—MMS

Original Above and Beyond Teacher
Deb Perry—MHS