Liberty Tree Elementary third grade teacher Erin Budic was honored on Tuesday with the Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart (TORCH) recognition, awarded by the Ohio Department of Education.
Budic, who is in her 15th year teaching in the Olentangy Local School District and 19th year overall, received the honor as a surprise during a scheduled assembly at the school. Budic’s husband and three of her four daughters were on hand to celebrate the honor, which was presented by 2021 Ohio Teacher of the Year Anthony Coy-Gonzalez and 2021 Teacher of the Year finalist Joy McKarns.
The TORCH recognition is awarded to just five teachers annually for their efforts to model strong character and a heart for their students, colleagues and communities. Teachers must be nominated for the award, and fellow Liberty Tree teacher Mindy Skinner nominated Budic for consideration.
“It was definitely a surprise,” Budic said of the honor. “We thought we were going to an assembly on our Treet Traits and behavior norms. I sat down and was just kind of puzzled when these people from the Ohio Department of Education were there, and then they started reading about a teacher. I think it dawned on me when they mentioned something about dance parties, which is something I do here. Then I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re talking about me.’”
Budic called the moment “humbling,” particularly due to the caliber of teachers found all throughout her school.
“First, I was just humbled to be able to receive this honor,” she said. “I really do feel like our building is full of fantastic, amazing educators, so to be recognized amongst a bunch of greatness is just very humbling. Even the person that nominated me, I think she exemplifies all of the things as well. I’m almost at a loss for words and just feel very honored to receive the award.”
Budic pursued a career in teaching simply for her love of kids, which has “always been special to my heart,” she said. Admittedly, Budic said she wasn’t always the best student through high school, but as she began to flourish in college, she started to appreciate “the beauty of learning.” From there, combining her newfound appreciation for learning with her love of children became a natural career path.
Budic said receiving the TORCH recognition has provided some validation for how she’s always approached her students, which has emphasized building relationships as the foundation for the learning that follows.
“I really just believe, first and foremost, that I have to develop relationships with kids,” she said. “They’re not going to respond to my teaching if they don’t know first that I love them. That’s one thing I’ve really tried to do is cultivate these relationships, and getting this honor for the heart and character of a teacher, it just makes me feel like I must be on the right track right now.”