50 years of combined service for 2 teachers

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Editor's note: This is the second part of three parts about retiring longtime Aurora school district staffers.

Aurora -- Ken Mitroff, who is retiring after 35 years of teaching -- all in Aurora schools -- said his father, Ed, a former superintendent in Avon Lake, is the one who influenced him to enter the field of education.

"The biggest influence he had on me was his work ethic," Mitroff said. "He believed in hard work and loving what you do."

Ed Mitroff is retired and lives in Avon Lake.

For the last 15 years, Ken Mitroff oversaw a program where high school juniors and seniors could get their feet wet in jobs and see if the employment appealed to them. It was called a career-based intervention program.

Mitroff said nearly 200 students went through the program. Students took care of their academic requirements for part of the school day, then went to their job sites.

"I visited with the students and their employers so they learned life skills," Mitroff said. "They could choose where they wanted to work. If they didn't have a job, I could help them locate one. It's real valuable for the students. It was very rewarding for me."

Earlier in his career, Mitroff was a health and physical education teacher at the high school and middle school, and an assistant principal at the high school for seven years. He also taught a preparation for high school course at the middle school.

Mitroff said he enjoyed the students the most. "We have wonderful kids," he said. "Aurora schools continue to get better and better, and the community support makes it a fantastic district to work in. It's been a tremendous 35 years."

Mitroff's wife, Darlene, is a teacher at Holden Elementary School in Kent. All three of their children are AHS graduates. Daughter Angela Eastman is kindergarten/first grade teacher in Tallmadge. Son Andy is a student at Kent State. Daughter Allison plans to attend Ohio State in the fall.

"I really appreciate the administrators I worked for, and all my colleagues and the community," he said. "All those things provided students here with a tremendous opportunity to be successful. I couldn't ask for a better place to be."

NANCY SMITH - 15 YEARS

Nancy Smith had two careers as an English teacher. The second one ended in early June after 15 years at Aurora High School. This past school year, she taught senior English and honors sophomore English.

"I love English," she said. "I had a teacher when I was in sixth grade -- Miss Fahrny at West Elementary School in Youngstown," she said. "I wanted to do what she did -- make it enjoyable for the students and yet still have them learn.

"When I was in her class, I didn't want to go home from school. I wanted to continue what we were doing in class. She retired not long after that, but I would like to think she'd be proud of me."

Smith said she loved teaching teenagers. "I like the potential, the real personableness of them -- looking around and seeing who they want to be and maybe I could help them get there. I can remember when I was a teenager. I can connect a little bit. That's why I like English. I like stories, and each kid is a story.

"I'll miss the students the most, absolutely," she added. "I miss them already -- and my colleagues, too. They're wonderful people. This is a great school system."

She started her career in 1968-69 teaching English at Copley Junior High School, then taught English for seven years at Austintown Fitch High School. She stepped away from teaching to start a family. Then her husband, Harry E. Smith Jr., vice president of the former Youngstown Welding & Engineering company, got amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and died in 1985.

Today, her two children are grown. Kristen Reynolds lives in Titusville, Pa., where she is a trainer and a biology teacher. Her husband is also a teacher, and they have four boys.

Todd Smith lives in Struthers with a wife and daughter. He is studying to be a teacher after playing minor league hockey until age 22, briefly performing with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Smith resumed her career by becoming an English teacher at Youngstown State University. She came to the Aurora school district in the 1999-2000 school year. For the last 15 years, she made the nearly two-hour round trip between Austintown and Aurora.

"Those 15 years have gone by quickly," she said.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

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