Teacher Inspires Student to Follow Dreams

Hannah Bitely’s words were simple but effective. In a letter to her former third-grade teacher, Mary Lou Ohnsman, Hannah wrote:

“Dear Mrs. Ohnsman, You have inspired me and helped me with math and reading. In math I have learned to do long multiplication and some long division. You have taught me never to give up on anything.

“I hope other kids appreciate you as much as you have inspired me to follow my dreams and keep on going even if there is a bump in the road.”

Apparently, Mary Lou Ohnsman also taught Hannah well in writing. The West Oakview Elementary student, now a fourth-grader, was named a local winner in the annual “My Favorite Teacher” contest sponsored by Barnes & Noble. Both were honored recently at the bookstore’s Woodland Mall location.

Hannah and her teacher both won Nook tablets in an event attended by her family and several West Oakview staff. Hannah’s letter was entered in a regional contest for a possible $500 gift card.

Ohnsman said she felt honored by Hannah’s praises, adding she was an excellent student. She was especially touched by Hannah’s analogy of “a bump in the road” as she reflected on her own life challenges.

“When Hannah wrote that all I could think of was what I went through,” said Ohnsman, in her 11th year at Northview. “I thought it was really beautiful the way she wrote that.”

The daughter of a teacher in Rockford, Ohnsman worked as an occupational therapist before returning to school later in life for a master’s degree in education. She tells her students to find their true passion, and that’s what teaching is for her. “It’s still fresh and new,” she said. “I like it.”

Hannah concluded her letter to Ohnsman by writing, “Other people should know what a great teacher you are.” Now, thanks to her, they do.

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Barnes & Noble “My Favorite Teacher” contest

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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