The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper


Mike Godfrey just finished his 22nd year as a teacher in the Eastwood school district, including the last 13 with its Gifted and Talented program.

He's made a positive impact with hundreds of students, but perhaps none more so than Eric Rutherford, a 2008 Eastwood graduate.

“I had Mr. Godfrey six times while I was in school, between fourth grade and senior year,” Rutherford said. “I always enjoyed the way he taught and how he pushed the students.”

Rutherford graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College in May with a degree in integrated science. This past year, B-W e-mailed a form to all of its seniors asking if they wanted to nominate a teacher for the school's James Thomas High School Teacher Award.


The award recognizes and celebrates dedicated high school teachers who have inspired and encouraged Baldwin-Wallace students while preparing for them for the college experience. The award is funded by B-W alumnus and trustee, James Thomas, chairman and CEO of Thomas Properties Group LLC.

Rutherford, 21, didn't think twice about his choice.

“I came across that e-mail and I thought it would be one last way to recognize how much Mr. Godfrey has done for me,” Rutherford said. “I didn't tell him about it until he got the letter from B-W telling him he got the award. He was very excited and very thankful. His reaction made it well worth it. I could tell he was very grateful for the award, especially to see one of his former students nominate him.”

To say Godfrey was surprised doesn't do justice to this story. He said he received a mailing from B-W in late April informing him of the award.

“I had no clue whatsoever anything like this was in the works,” Godfrey said. “I was humbled, to say the least. Very honored. For those of us who teach, it's nice to know you've had a positive influence on somebody.”

Godfrey said it came as no surprise that he was nominated by Rutherford.

“That's just the kind of person he is,” Godfrey said. “He's always thinking about others.”

Godfrey first taught Rutherford in a fourth grade Gifted and Talented class. Godfrey was also Rutherford's teacher in the fifth grade and again in high school.

“In high school I facilitate a high school leadership program called Carpe Diem, and Eric was involved with that program,” Godfrey said. “My last class experience I had with him was when I was co-teaching a marine science class during his junior year. He's a very well-rounded, involved, caring person.”

Godfrey, 54, said a better example of Rutherford's character happened the last two years. Rutherford took time out during B-W's spring and Christmas breaks to come back and spend a day in Godfrey's fourth- and fifth-grade Gifted and Talented classroom.

“Very few college students would take several days of their breaks to come in and sit in a classroom,” Godfrey said. “He got no (college) credit for it. It was just more teaching experience for him and a way to look at things. I saw this award come across the desk and who initiated it, he's just a person who thinks of other people. The time he's put in my classroom, that's just another indication of that.”

Rutherford said coming back to spend time in Godfrey's classroom was basically a no-brainer.

“I felt as a future educator I could learn from the way he taught, since I enjoyed the way he taught,” Rutherford said. “He had a good rapport with all of his students. He wrote personal notes to students who had been involved in Carpe Diem, encouraging them. He made sure he stayed involved, encouraging students, and I really appreciated it. Even throughout college he made sure to send me e-mails when I had knee surgeries.”

Rutherford, a standout quarterback/free safety at Eastwood, went to B-W to play football as a cornerback. He suffered a serious knee injury his sophomore year that required surgery.

“That was the beginning of the end,” he said. “I tried to come back after the first surgery and it didn't work out. I ended up coaching the defensive backs at B-W in 2010 and I had my second surgery (for torn cartilage) in December. It's coming along nicely.”

Rutherford's degree in integrated science qualifies him to teach students in grades 7-12 in all of the science fields. He is currently doing his student teaching at Firelands Middle School in South Amherst, Ohio.

Rutherford recently returned from a two-week trip to the Kingdom of Lesotho, which borders South Africa.

“I was teaching in primary schools for two and a half weeks with a group from Baldwin-Wallace, in the office of community outreach,” said Rutherford, who returned home on June 4. “My part of the group was to teach science. It was an amazing experience and it really put things in perspective in how good we have it here in America. Their education system is coming along and they're doing a lot of good things right now. They're going to continue to progress in the future.”

Rutherford said he's glad to be back from Africa.

“It's a different world there,” he said. “I missed my family and friends and just Northwest Ohio in general.”

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