The curtain calls following the Friday night performance of the high school play “Peter and the Starcatcher” included a moment that caught Bexley’s Theatre Arts director Rebecca Rhinehart by surprise: a visit to the stage by a delegation from BEF, there to announce that she had been selected to receive the 2017 Bexley Educator of the Year Award.
BEF Board member Marty Ross-Dolen, in announcing the award, said, “Numerous students, parents, and colleagues have nominated you for this award four separate times over the last six years, which is not typical and is a tremendous honor in itself, indicative of the breadth and depth of commitment that you bring to your exceptional work.” The announcement led to a hearty standing ovation. “I am hardly ever surprised,” Ms. Rhinehart later commented, but the award “rendered me speechless.”
The Bexley Educator of the Year award is presented annually to a Bexley educator whose leadership, dedication, extraordinary achievements and commitment to the classroom and the community have made a difference in children’s lives. Sponsored by the Bexley Education Foundation, the award is funded by the Glick Family Endowment for the BEF at the Columbus Jewish Foundation.
In nominating Ms. Rhinehart (known to students simply as “Rhinehart”) for the award, students described a teacher who, throughout their years at Bexley, had helped them to overcome shyness and gain confidence, leadership and management skills and a sense of their own ability to contribute to something greater than themselves. “As I worked more with Rhinehart and the theatre program,” wrote a former student, now in college, “I learned how to be a leader, instead of an awkward kid hiding in the back of the group. Without Rhinehart continually pushing and prodding me to do more, I doubt that I would have become the person I am today.”
Ms. Rhinehart oversees theatre classes and productions at all grade levels, and some students work with her on dozens of productions across their time at Bexley. “Ms. Rhinehart has students returning year after year because she makes the long and tiring rehearsal hours enjoyable,” wrote a student, pointing out that participants have so much fun they often don’t notice what they are learning.
“Many of her former students continue to participate in theatre after graduating,” wrote a Bexley High School faculty member in support of her nomination. “Rebecca instills a love and passion for theater in all her students, which is evidenced by the many students who pursue theater as a career, continue theater as a hobby, or simply decide to come back to the community and take a leadership role in the Bexley Theatre Arts program.”
A 2003 Summa Cum Laude graduate of The Ohio State University in English and Theatre, Ms. Rhinehart earned a Master of Education degree in Integrated Language Arts the following year. She taught at Columbus’s West High School for two years prior to coming to Bexley in 2006.
On April 26, Ms. Rhinehart will be recognized publicly and presented with a $1,000 cash award and a commemorative crystal apple at the Bexley Education Appreciation Banquet at Capital University.
The selection committee for this year’s Educator of the Year Award was chaired by BEF Board member Drew Stark and included members of the BEF Board of Governors and representatives from Capital University and the community at large. Past recipients of the Educator of the Year award include Marge Galloway, Jeff Schneider, Jim Tatman, Karen Haylor, Donna Taylor, Ken Stewart, Scott Logsdon, Carole Ennis, Eric Acton, Terry Black, Molly McCarrick, Sonja Hutchison, Rose Blanchard, Lisa Viney, Linda Kelley, Amy Johnston Blosser, Amy Dunn, Michael Featherstone, Julie Horger and Michelle Hipsley.