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Classroom Hero: Utica Elementary’s Doug Lunsford found his love of teaching through coaching

10TV teamed up with the Ohio Education Association and 97.1 The Fan to honor these heroes making a difference in the lives of children.

UTICA, Ohio — Doug Lunsford didn’t want to be a teacher. More accurately, he just wanted to be a coach.

“Back in the ‘80s, when I was a kid growing up, if you were going to be a coach, you had to be a teacher,” he said. “And so, I was fortunate enough to play on Bexley’s ‘82-‘83 state championship team. I had great a great seat. I did, I had a great seat. I wasn’t one of the star players, but I had a great seat. But I loved basketball.”

So Lunsford went to school, got his teaching license and started to coach. He did landscaping on the side.

But the opportunity to teach came knocking. He turned down the offer repeatedly until he talked to someone important in his life who helped to steer him in the right direction.

“He said, look, I’ve interviewed five people, and I still think you’d be the best person for the job, and so, I politely said no again, and then I called my mom,” Lunsford said. “And she said, are you ever going to use this degree you’re paying money on, and so, I called him back, and I said, yeah, I just talked to my mom, and he started laughing ‘cause he knew what that meant. So, he asked me, when do you want to start, and I said, next day, and I did, I went in the very next day, and I’ve been doing it for 29 years.”

Most of those years have been in the North Fork Local School District. For the past several years, he’s been an intervention specialist at Utica Elementary School.

Nominate your Classroom Hero here

“What I found out was special education was everything that I wanted professionally out of the job that I never expected I was going to find,” he said.

But he certainly found success in that role. And that’s why one parent reached out to 10TV to nominate him as a Classroom Hero.

“He is definitely a teacher because he loves what he does,” Angela Boeshart said. “I mean, it’s very clear. Anyone who has ever dealt with him will probably tell you the same thing.”

Boeshart says Lunsford has helped two of her daughters who were on IEPs, or Individualized Education Programs.

She says he was always there to help, even when her daughters were no longer in his classroom. Boeshart also praised Lunsford for his work as a crossing guard after school, making sure to engage with students whenever and wherever he can.

“He enjoys being involved with the students as well as their family, so I mean, he really does a wonderful job of making the families feel welcome and a part of the school, too,” she said. “I really love where my kids go, and it’s people like him that make that happen.”

By now, Lunsford has taught dozens and dozens of students, along with the children of some of those students. He jokes he’ll know it’s time to retire when he starts seeing the grandchildren in his classroom.

For now, he’s just enjoying the ride and the recognition, looking forward to putting his master’s degree to good use in the future by becoming an administrator.

“It’s very reaffirming, I guess is the best way to put it,” he said. “It really reaffirms that what you’re doing really does make a difference, and it really does matter. And that just makes you want to do it all the more.”