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St. Vincent College honors 'Great Teachers'

Jacob Tierney
| Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, 12:42 p.m.

Greensburg has some great teachers, according to freshmen at St. Vincent College.

Every year since 1998 the college has recognized high school educators with the “Great Teacher Awards.” Freshmen can nominate their favorite teachers.

“It's an opportunity for our freshmen to maybe give some recognition to a teacher that has had some influence on them,” said college spokesman Don Orlando.

This year the college recognized 23 teachers from Pennsylvania and Maryland, six of them from Greensburg.

“I am extremely flattered,” said Alain Toret, who is in his 16th year of teaching math in the Greensburg Salem School District.

“I'm a very old-school type of teacher. I use chalk,” he said.

He said the hardest and most important part of his job is getting students to understand mathematical concepts for themselves, instead of just memorizing principles.

“What I try to do is point out the satisfaction in trying in understanding the concept,” he said. “I ask a thousand questions during the class.”

Toret was nominated by his former student Madison McGill, now a freshman at St. Vincent College.

“He's a fun-loving man and a great person all-around,” McGill said in her nomination of Toret. “I'm still using the concepts he taught me while in college today.”

Matthew King, who teaches video production at Greensburg Salem High School, said he didn't even know he had received the award.

Almost all his courses are completely hands-on, he said, and he tries to give his students plenty of freedom in how they approach the challenging task of creating videos.

“I give my students a topic, or a problem to solve, and then I give them a lot of freedom in how they approach the problem and how they deal with it,” he said.

His job has changed quite a bit in his 20 years teaching at Greensburg-Salem, he said.

“It's changed drastically from the days of VCR and videotape to the days of all-digital,” he said.

The rise of the Internet and digital tools has made it easier for anybody to create and publish their work, he said.

St. Vincent freshman Serena Martinez nominated King.

Greensburg Salem High School Spanish teacher Tammy Lyons said she is flattered that a student nominated her for the award.

“I'm always kind of humbled and honored when a student remembers me in that way,” she said.

Lyons has been a Spanish teacher at Greensburg Salem for 26 years. She said she has developed an unusual teaching style with her husband, Kevin Lyons, who also teaches Spanish with the district.

“Thanks to my husband's creation of a game called ‘Survivor,' I'd say my teaching style is pretty unique,” she said.

The game bears some resemblance to the long-running reality show, she said, and is designed to immerse students completely in Spanish. Speaking in English while playing is not allowed.

“Even if it's really bad Spanish, that's OK; that's how we all learned the language at one point,” she said.

St. Vincent Freshman Jamie Sompel nominated Lyons for the award. Sompel is now majoring in Spanish.

David Ferranti, who teaches English and social studies at Greensburg Central Catholic High School, Jon McFarland, who teaches religious studies at Greensburg Central Catholic High School, and Carol Malik, a retired teacher at Greensburg Salem High School, also received the award.

Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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