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Civil engineering students honor 'most valuable' high school teachers

Release Date: April 28, 2014
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Kelly Mendez (L) and Denise Bills (R) are teachers at Garden City High School, the alma mater of current LTU students Kimberly Klieber and Jennifer Johnson.


Several students majoring in civil engineering at Lawrence Technological University took the time recently to honor their “most valuable teacher” in high school.

The recognition program was initiated by Assistant Professor John Tocco of the Department of Civil Engineering as a way for successful college students to acknowledge the positive influence that high school teachers had in their academic careers. The teachers were invited to attend the students’ final oral presentations for their capstone projects, a significant milestone for their civil engineering undergraduate careers.

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LTU student Ashley Meade and Nita Carpenter, one of her teachers at Okemos High School.


George Grzywacz, who is majoring in civil engineering and architecture, said teacher Jason Youngblood’s class in tech design and architecture at Chippewa Valley High School had a major impact on his educational plans.

“He taught me how to use CAD and build models,” Grzywacz said. “His class is one of the main reasons I am a dual major at LTU.”

Civil engineering major Kimberly Klieber named two most valuable teachers from her time at Garden City High School, Denise Bills and Kelly Mendez.

Bills taught Klieber in honors physics and organic chemistry. “Miss Bills had a fire in the classroom! Everything was exciting and fun to learn. She truly has a passion for teaching and is amazing at it,” Klieber said.

Mendez taught chemistry and geometry. “She knew how to teach so well that I still remember some of her silly jokes from time to time,” Klieber said. “She taught subjects that are traditionally ‘boring,’ but she always made them fun and memorable.”

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LTU student George Grzywacz and Jason Youngblood, one of his teachers at Chippewa Valley High School.


Ashley Meade named Nita Carpenter, her Algebra II teacher at Okemos High School. “She spent ample time with me when I needed help. I have learned to take time and have patience when explaining new ideas and topics,” Meade said.

From his perspective at the collegiate level, Tocco believes the MVT initiative is important for both the students and their high school teachers. “The students are provided the opportunity to demonstrate their engineering and presentation skills to people who have made a significant contribution to their lives. Similarly, the teachers gain a measure of satisfaction when they see firsthand that their early mentorship of these students really did make a difference in their academic careers,” Tocco said.