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Grad Credits Grade School Theater Teacher For Building Her “Voice”

Holly Holmes is graduating with a degree in communication, and says it was her grade school theater teacher that helped her overcome the obstacles of being the new kid from a small town.

Date: 11/22/2005
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
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Holly Holmes and Steve Haines
Holly Holmes and Steve Haines

Holly Holmes of Martinsville, Ohio, calls Wilmington High School theater teacher Steve Haines the most inspirational person in her life. “I can definitely say he is someone who influenced my ability to succeed, and he helped me discover what path to take at UC.”

Holly will personally thank Mr. Haines at the University of Cincinnati Autumn Commencement on Dec. 10, when he becomes one of four people around the Tristate to be honored by UC as an outstanding teacher who guided a student to achieving a college degree. Mr. Haines will be presented with a $1,000 UC scholarship to present to a high school senior who plans to enter UC in the 2006-2007 academic year.

Starting out as a student at Martinsville Elementary, Holly says she was the only child there, beginning in fifth grade, to be bussed once a week to a Gifted and Talented Enrichment (GATE) program at Wilmington Middle School. Consequently, Holly says the “gifted” label resulted in ridicule from some of her classmates. Plus, being from a small village, she says she considered Wilmington to be the “Big City,” and worried about a sense of belonging in that environment as well.

Holly Holmes
Holly Holmes

“Holly was this very creative young lady, and she was very insecure and very aware of the small village environment from which she came,” says Mr. Haines, who has been teaching for 33 years. “I remember a big part of my relationship with Holly was working with her to help her see that it didn’t make any difference where she came from, she was fully able to compete with her new peers and be part of this new community.”

“I remember I was kind of scared of him at first,” Holly recalls. “He’s a theater person, so he has a really big voice! But eventually, he put me at ease, and his work with me in acting and oral interpretation really broke me out of my shell.”

Tragedy rocked Holly at a very young age – just as she was entering adolescence – when in the seventh grade, her mother passed away. “Many times I think school, in particular my GATE classes, were what kept me sane during that period. I focused on my studies, and Mr. Haines was always a pillar of support – helping me to learn about myself, my ability to write and express myself and later, my ability to succeed in higher education.”

Mr. Haines
Steve Haines

“I remember very distinctly Holly discovering her writing talents and creating a one-woman show as part of a series of creative student productions,” says Mr. Haines, who continued to teach Holly through graduation from Wilmington High School. “I also remember her wonderful sense of humor.”

While Mr. Haines became Holly’s mentor, her aunt, Betty Stevenson had been his, guiding him through the first few years he started teaching at a school in Martinsville. “She was my lifeline through those first three years that I taught, so when I met her niece, Holly, there was this terrific connection.”

Holly says Mr. Haines became an inspiration again, when he delivered the eulogy at her aunt’s funeral. “He said her last words to him were, ‘Go…do.’ This stuck with me. I want to always honor this wisdom he passed along. I want to go…do.”

And while Mr. Haines remains an inspiration to Holly, he says students like Holly have taught him as well. They’ve taught him how to be a better person. “They’ve also taught me how to be a better teacher, because they’ve shown me that teaching goes so much beyond the content area. You have to be human with these kids. Students like Holly taught me so much about what it means to be a person and to know that teaching stretches beyond what happens in the classroom.”

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