A Girard Middle School teacher’s personality is one of the positive factors leading to his nomination for a Golden Apple Award.

Mike Hlebik, a language arts teacher with 32 years in the classroom, has spent the last 15 years in the Girard School District. His path to this place started with a detour.      

“I always wanted to teach, ever since I graduated high school. I majored in accounting and didn’t like it, so I figured I’d go back and do something I really wanted to do so that’s what I did. It’s just a calling, it’s just something that’s in you that you know you want to do. You know what you have to do, you know you can help people learn, so you want to do it,” said Mike Hlebik, Golden Apple winner.

This week’s Golden Apple award-winning school teacher was nominated not by one student, but by six. They all wanted to show their appreciation.

“I think it’s the most amazing feeling I’ve had in teaching, ever. It’s just amazing,” said Hlebik.

The student nominators call him “Papa H.” They appreciate his personality, interesting class discussions and his mentorship, and the fact that he agreed to have lunch with them once a week, even though they’ve moved on to high school.

What’s the secret to this positive student-teacher relationship?

“I think listening to them, connecting with them and talking to them about things that may be extraneous to some of the stuff we are talking about before we get into the lesson,” said Hlebik.

“All the nominators talked about how helpful he’s been and what an impact he’s made in their lives, from helping them solve problems to tutoring them to having lunch with them. He’s making critical connections, and he’s present. We’re not only honoring a Golden Apple teacher.  I think we’re honoring someone who’s very deserving the recognition of being a phenomenal mentor for young people,” said Dr. Mary Jo Melvin, PennWest University.