For 31 years, JET 24 has been honoring teachers with the Golden Apple Award.

For only the second time, we are presenting an “Honorary” Golden Apple to a retired teacher.

Stephen Trohoske is co-owner of the City Art Gallery and a popular local musician.

Trohoske is a college graduate who would have never made it out of grade school if it wasn’t for Rose Mary Kowalczyk, better known as RMK or “Really mean Kowalczyk.”

Growing up, Trohoske’s mother feared he was failing public school, so she sent him to parochial school where he first encountered RMK. Even though she soon moved on to teach in Erie’s Public Schools, Steve wasn’t likely to move on.

“He wasn’t going to graduate from OLP. They insisted he not graduate. By that time, I had gone back to Erie. His mother said ‘I will pay anyone for a tutor,'” said Rose Mary Kowalczyk, retired school teacher.

So, RMK agreed to tutor him all summer, and he passed with flying colors. His admitted tendency to daydream got him in trouble again, and a high school diploma was in doubt.

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So, Kowalczyk came back into Trohoske’s life again and helped him to achieve that goal, too. What’s the secret?

“Well, you have to give a darn. You just can’t give up,” Kowalczyk said.

Now, many years later, no one is more appreciative for her steadfast confidence, faith and the lessons he’s learned.

“I love her for not giving up on me. At this point and time in my life, it’s also reminded me to not give up on others when the going gets tough,” said Stephen Trohoske, Former student of RMK.

“We can’t pick and choose who comes into our classroom and that’s the lesson she has shown us. You have to look at each student as an individual, respect that student and believe in that student,” said Dr. May Jo Melvin, Edinboro University.

That’s why this retired school teacher who spent 38 years helping kids like Stephen Trohoske is an honorary JET 24 and Edinboro University Golden Apple Award winner.