Ben Osterland said he literally walked into his job as a teacher at Bryan City Schools 15 years ago.
He recounted the story Monday evening, after he was presented with the 2019 Benedict Family Outstanding Educator Award during the Academic Booster Club Awards Night
“My wife, Lisa, she got a job in the area so I knew we were going to get settled in,” Osterland said. “I got dressed up in the only suit I had, an olive green, three-piece suit with pinstripes on it ... So, I drove around the four-county area handing out resumes.”
It may have been an unconventional approach in the modern day, but it worked for him, at least eventually.
He had some issues along the way, such as when he stopped by Wauseon. He had done some research and knew who the principal was and recognized her coming out of her car as he pulled up.
“So, she’s unloading her car and I walk up behind her and say, ‘Good day, ma’am,’ and must have startled her something good because she slammed the door and took off straight across the parking lot,” Osterland said. “Being the kind of guy I am, I had my resume with me and just took off after her. Needless to say, I did not get a call back from Wauseon.”
Just before school started, he stopped by Bryan City Schools, which had just opened up a part-time intervention position for a rather large incoming preschool class.
He started at Washington Elementary in preschool before moving to the first grade position a year later. He has been there ever since.
“Really over the next 14 years, I’ve had a lot of growth,” he said. “That’s so important for an educator. An educator has always got to be looking to grow and change.”
Over his time at BCS, he has learned to bring three things into his classroom every day: enthusiasm, courage and love.
Bringing all these three things will result in a great day for him and his students.
“Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,’ which is so true,” Osterland said. “Enthusiasm takes a small thing and makes it big for the kid. Enthusiasm takes something boring and makes it exciting for the kid. Enthusiasm gets kids engaged.”
Educators also need to be courageous.
As educators they need to try new things because everything is constantly changing for them, including their students and curriculum.
“We have to have the courage to go out and try something new, try to get the students engaged,” Osterland said, even though doing so can be scary. “Failure comes when you try something you’re not comfortable with. You know what, I love failure ... With failure comes the opportunity for growth.”
The final thing he wants to bring into his classroom is love.
It is also the most important thing, even though until a couple of years ago it was something he wouldn’t have thought to bring into the classroom.
As a people watcher, it was something he noticed in his coworker, Joe Tucker.
“I watched the way he greets his students in the morning: every morning he’s giving them high fives, hugs, greeting them with a kind comment,” Osterland said. “You need to see the looks on the kids’ faces, the joy they had, you can tell they felt loved. So, I thought I had to give it a try.”
He started giving them nice comments, high fives and hugs, if they needed it.
Osterland started to see a change.
“They became more accustomed to my classroom because they are feeling more loved, feeling more cared for,” he said. “I love being out in the hallway in the morning. And I know the kids love it, too.
“If you have never told your students you love them, you’ve got to try it,” he continued. “We’re more at peace with each other.”
In presenting the teacher of the year award, Scott Benedict, a representative of the family who started the award, said it was meant to honor teachers and staff who do not always get the recognition and gratitude they deserve.
The comments made in favor of Osterland were glowing, Benedict said, and included: “Ben has proven to be an exceptional leader, influencer and role model for both students and his fellow teachers. He is an engaging and inspiring presence who motivates everyone in our school.”
Osterland has also donated his personal time to create PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) expectation videos for students in kindergarten through fifth grade and created the PBIS chant said every morning on the announcements, Benedict said.
Osterland also attracted more than 100 students to his running club and 15 other teachers to assist in the program.
“He has undoubtedly influenced many hundreds of kids over those years,” Benedict said, reading a quote from Osterland’s nomination.
Benedict went on to call Osterland “another one of Bryan’s finest educators.”