Public Education Matters

Every year, deserving OEA members receive awards and scholarship money to further the work of pioneering educators and OEA staffers who have come before them. But today's active educators may not know much about the people for whom those scholarships and awards are named, who made their marks decades ago. We asked some of the retired educators who worked alongside a few of them to share their memories.

Show Notes

Remembering OEA Awards & Scholarships namesakes - Season 3, Episode 16
Every year, deserving OEA members receive awards and scholarship money to further the work of pioneering educators and OEA staffers who have come before them. But today's active educators may not know much about the people for whom those scholarships and awards are named, who made their marks decades ago. We asked some of the retired educators who worked alongside a few of them to share their memories. 
MORE | To learn more about all of the OEA Awards and Scholarships and to download the applications, click here. 
  • The deadline for all applications is January 27, 2023. 
SUBSCRIBE | Click here to subscribe to Education Matters on Apple Podcasts or click here to subscribe on Google podcasts so you don't miss a thing. And don't forget you can listen to all of the previous episodes anytime on your favorite podcast platform, or by clicking here.

Featured Education Matters guest: 
  • Bob Maher, OEA-R Racial and Social Justice Committee vice-chair  
    • Robert "Bob" Maher is a retired elementary teacher living in Athens County, Ohio. He met his late wife Linda while attending Ohio University and working as a graduate assistant. They decided to remain in the area after he graduated because several members of her family lived in Athens County. Bob worked in Morgan and Athens County public schools for the next 34 years teaching grades 3-6. He also taught at Ohio University as an instructor in the College of Education. He was active in the Federal Hocking Teachers Association in a variety of roles, including president, and served as a long-time delegate to the OEA and NEA Representative Assemblies. Bob's work on Conflict Resolution education and international education curricula was recognized at the local, statewide and national level over the course of his career. His passion for peace and justice work continues today with his role as vice-chair of the OEA-R Racial and Social Justice Committee and his volunteer work for the Athens Catholic Community on peace and justice and environmental issues. Bob has been a hospice volunteer for 10 years. He has traveled to all 50 states and several countries on 3 continents, and looks forward to visiting more. He has 3 adult children, a daughter-in-law, and 4 granddaughters. 
  • Don Traxler, life member of NWOEA-R, OEA-R and NEA-R
    • Don was the only son of four children born to Albert and Garnetta Kinley Traxler on the family farm in Wyandot County, Ohio. Don was one of nine graduates with the class of 1954 from Salem Township Local School.  He received his BS in Education from Bowling Green State University in 1958.  His MS in Elementary School Supervision and Administration was conferred in 1965.  He received his PhD in Educational Media from The Ohio State University in December, 1978.
    • Traxler taught in the public schools primarily in northwestern Ohio for five years in grades 5 through 8.  For four years he was the Grand Rapids, Ohio Elementary School Principal half-time and sixth grade teacher in math and science half-time.
      One year, Traxler was the Wood County Supervisor in Grades five through eight and worked with teachers in 21 schools.  He chaired the committee which developed the guidelines for Science in grades 5 through 8.  With the teachers in Grand Rapids, he conducted the research for and established the guidelines for an Elementary School Student Council.  This included the instructions for conducting elections in each classroom K-6.
    • Traxler was employed by Ohio Northern University from August 1968 through July of 1992.  He began as an Instructor and ended as a full Professor in Education.  He served as Department of Education Chair and Director of Teacher Education for seven years.  He served on numerous committees within the Arts and Science College and was University Council Chair for two years.  This included two years as an ad hoc member of the University Board of Trustees.
    • Traxler was Vice President and President of the Wood County Education Association as well as NWOEA.  The only involvement in OEA initially was as a member of the Professional Problems and Teacher Welfare Committee.
    • Elected in December, 1971, Don served as OEA President-Elect from July 1, 1972 through June 30, 1973.  His term as President was July, 1, 1973 through June 30, 1974.  Traxler has been a life member of OEA and NEA since the middle 1960s and has served as a delegate for many years at all levels.
Connect with OEA:
About us:
  • The Ohio Education Association represents about 120,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals who work in Ohio’s schools, colleges, and universities to help improve public education and the lives of Ohio’s children. OEA members provide professional services to benefit students, schools, and the public in virtually every position needed to run Ohio’s schools.
  • Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May, 2020, after a ten-year career as a television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
This episode was recorded on November 30 and December 13, 2022.

What is Public Education Matters?

Ohio's public schools serve 1.6 million children - 90 percent of students in the state! What happens in the classroom has impacts far beyond the walls of the K-12 school building or higher ed lecture hall. So, on behalf of the 120,000 members of the Ohio Education Association, we're taking a deeper dive into some of the many education issues facing our students, educators, and communities. Originally launched in 2021 as Education Matters, Public Education Matters is your source for insightful conversations with the people who shape the education landscape in Ohio. Have a topic you'd like to hear about on Public Education Matters? Email us at

Intro 0:07
This is Education Matters, brought to you by the Ohio Education Association.

Katie Olmsted 0:15
Thank you for joining us for this edition of Education Matters. I'm Katie Olmsted, part of the communications team for the Ohio Education Association and the 120,000 teachers, education support professionals and higher ed faculty members OEA represents. And that's, of course, not to mention the Aspiring Educators and the retirees in our ranks. Each year, several of those members are awarded scholarships and grants through OEA's awards and scholarships programs. The application deadline for the next round of awards and scholarships is January 27, 2023. I highly recommend you visit the OEA website,, to learn more about all of the awards and scholarships, but we wanted to learn more about the people for whom some of these awards are named. For example, we know that Jean Kershaw scholarship is a $2,000 scholarship for a student in a teacher education program at an Ohio college or university. But did you know Jean Kershaw was secretary to 11 OEA presidents before she passed away in 1985? And did you know that Doris L. Allen developed a handbook for local association Human Relations Committees, conducted human relations programs around Ohio, and served as a member of the OEA Racism Awareness Cadre before she was killed in a plane crash on our way to an NEA training in 1974. The award named in her honor recognizes achievements in human relations and related inter cultural activities that impact children, communities, the educational process, and/or the United Education Profession. And then there's the Paul Swaddling Peace and International Relations Award, named for a member who taught for over 20 years in northeastern Ohio, and who committed his life to education and peace before his sudden death in 1987. But we wanted to look beyond that biographical information, we wanted to look into who these people were on a personal level. And we wanted to hear that from the people who worked right alongside them. So we asked to OEA-R members, Don Traxler and Bob Maher to share their memories. Up first, we hear from Don, who among other things, was a teacher in northwestern Ohio, a professor at Ohio Northern University in the teacher education program there, and an OEA president for a one year term beginning July 1, 1973. Take a listen to what he had to say.

Don Traxler, thank you so so much for taking the time sitting down with us and sharing your recollections with us. Let's start with your memories of Jean Kershaw, the namesake of the Jean Kershaw's scholarship. What can you tell me?

Don Traxler 3:09
Well, Jean Kershaw was the secretary for the OEA president, and she had someone new every year to work with. And there were a lot of different personalities that she had to work with. And she was the most gracious, helpful human being I could ever have imagined. And we became good personal friends as well. And she would always look at my calendar, and she would - when I would come in, in the morning, she would - if I was going out somewhere, she would have all the materials ready for me to put my briefcase and take off. She was just so efficient with everything she did. And one time I went in, and I had my winter coat and winter hat on, and I sat down at the chair beside her desk, and I said, Take a letter. And she went into complete hysteria, because she did have a former president, I'm not saying who, that he would do this every almost every day, he would come in and say, take a lather, and has still have his hat and coat on. I didn't know that. So that is probably the loudest I ever heard her laugh. But she was just so efficient and personable. And you know, she was able to adapt to each new president she faced each year. And then, we had lost two babies. And then we had our son Ty, who is now the high school principal and basketball coach at Elmwood High School. His wife's also a teacher. Now she - Our son Ty was born at The Ohio State University Hospital. I went and I went there the next day because my wife was in the intensive care. She was in very critical condition. And a few weeks later, she said, Don, I was at the OEA, and she said, Don, I have a spoon that I was saving for my first born grandchild. But I love you and Myra so much and she went through so much, I want you to have that for your son. And, you know, that meant so much on a personal level. And she, you know, was the epitome of a helper for every president, no matter whether they were domineering, or whether they were more like me and one of wanted to be a good friend as well as have her work with my papers that she had. And then I would never put anything back in the file. She would do all that. I was in trouble the next year when I got back to teach at Ohio Northern, there wasn't anybody doing that for me.

Katie Olmsted 6:12
So probably fair to say that she made this place run for you.

Don Traxler 6:16
She made it run for me and every president that she served.

Katie Olmsted 6:20
So when they named the scholarship for her, what did you think?

Don Traxler 6:26
I thought, you know, I was not on the central - on the executive committee then. And I was so excited because she deserved to have something named after her. And it's going to a college student. And that's even better. Because I was very active with the student group, both at Ohio Northern. Well, I shouldn't say both. I was at Ohio Northern I was the advisor every year after my first year, so that would be 23 years. Then I got involved at the state level and was involved with, we call it the Ohio Student Education Association then. And then I got involved at the NEA level when I was on the NEA board, the students did not have a voting member on the NEA board. And we were able to get that through as an amendment one year. And I think I'm probably the only honorary life member of the Student NEA.

Katie Olmsted 7:26
Do you think Jean would have been proud to have her name on that scholarship?

Don Traxler 7:30
Oh, I know she would, because she loved people, you know, that were in teaching or in the support professional way. And she loved college students, too.

Katie Olmsted 7:43
And then let's talk about Doris L. Allen. By all accounts, she loved what she did as well, what can you tell me about her?

Don Traxler 7:49
Well, what I can tell you about her - I did not know her well enough to know that she was from Kenton, Ohio, which is the county seat in Hardin County. But she was the first person to have that position to work with non-white educators. And she was so into her job. And she was on a trip to the NEA for further training. And unfortunately, the plane crashed. And she was among those who lost their lives. And they could not have named the award for a better person. She never got to complete what she would have done for that group of people. And I am so proud that she is from Hardin County. And I did not know that until they brought the cremains back for burial in the cemetery in Kenton. And that's when I realized that you know, she was from Kenton and got to meet her family. You know, in the very cold ceremony they had her grave side. And I just regret that we didn't get to have her for many years. And I know that she would be very proud to have the group that is working now with all kinds of diversity. And that's so important with OEA and NEA.

Katie Olmsted 9:27
So not only does Doris Allen have her name on this award, she's also the namesake of the Doris L. Allen minority caucus. How important is it, do you think, to her legacy to have her work continue today? Do you still see such a need for that important work?

Don Traxler 9:46
It's very important and OEA has done a fantastic job as well as NEA. And you metioned Paul Swaddling and now I remember why I know him because we had - I asked Don Wilson, who was the president, if we couldn't see if there was interest for peace and international committee at the OEA level, because one of the things I got to do as president was go to a world teachers meeting in Nairobi, Africa, and my wife went, too. OEA paid my travel, but they didn't pay my wife. And every month, American Express would send us a bill. But that opened my eyes to the world. And it's Education International now. But we did form a committee in Ohio. And this one group came up with the idea that we should have on the day that the United Nation opens, which is on the Thursday in September, we should have an International Day of Peace in Education. And so that little committee brought up to the full committee of the Peace and International Relations Committee of OEA. We took them to the OEA-Retired and the OEA Representative Assembly. They agreed with it. Then we were in Louisville, and we introduced it as an item of new business that the first day that the United Nations was in session will be proclaimed as an International Day of Peace in Education in the country. And then we went to another World Teachers meeting and Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. They do not have new business, but they have resolutions. They adopted the resolution that we would have the International Day of Peace and Education on the day that the United Nations opened. And I had been I don't know where it is now a letter from the United Nations man in charge of education at that time. And they were so happy that we had done that at the NEA level.

Katie Olmsted 12:11
And of course, does that work continues now fostering an environment of peace in education. Paul Swaddling's legacy lives on through that and your work continues to as a lifetime member of the OEA and NEA. Don Traxler, thank you so much for joining us.

Don Traxler 12:28
My pleasure.

Katie Olmsted 12:31
Of course, Don Traxler isn't the only one with memories to share about Paul Swaddling. Bob Maher is a retired elementary school teacher who spent most of his 36 year career in Morgan and Athens County Public Schools, and as an active member and leader of the Federal Hocking Teachers Association. He was also a former chair of OEA Peace and International Relations Committee, and was one of the founding members of that group, along with Paul Swaddling, who was also there at its start. Bob sat down with us to share his memories.

Bob Maher, thank you so much for sitting down with us today. You have a personal experience that really is connected to the Paul Swaddling Peace and International Relations award. What can you tell me?

Bob Maher 13:23
Well, yeah, we started the Peace and International Relations Committee in the early 1980s, OEA did, and I was appointed, and there are people appointed from across the state from the various districts. And Don Wilson, who was the former president of OEA, was the first chair of the committee, which was good for purposes of committee prestige.

Katie Olmsted 13:46
I'd say!

Bob Maher 13:47
Yeah! Paul Swaddling was one of his first appointments. He knew him because Don was from Parma, in Northeast Ohio. And Paul was from Berea. So they had worked together on some projects for the NEOEA. And Paul was recognized as a standout in peace education. So

Katie Olmsted 14:07
Do you recall what made him that standout?

Bob Maher 14:10
Yeah, it was - the the award, the application says "Paul's intensity, imagination, humor, creativity and authenticity were evident in his work for OEA at the local, district, and statewide level." So that's a big mouthful, but that does sort of exemplify what it was like to work with him and meet him. So he had a good sense of humor. He didn't take himself too seriously even though he had done a lot of really good work. And he was authentic. He lived out his approach to conflict, to talking things out to reach common ground, and that's necessary today, too. So I think the great thing about looking back is that the the future also needs, we especially need, these qualities in people today, too. So I'd be glad to see people apply for the awards. We could see some more examples of how teachers are living this out. Paul had a great interest in literature, as it says, an interest in peacemaking literature and peacemakers. And he used to bring literature and books to the meetings that he'd read, and other people too, and even cite incidents from the lives of the peacemakers that he read about. So that was pretty awesome, you know, to do that. And we worked on a book list, literature that we recommended for people to use at time to read at the time. So some of it's still appropriate, some of it's probably out of date by now. So Paul used his imagination to work on flyers and a logo for the committee. And he had some really good ideas for that. But he didn't, you know, like I said, he was able to listen to other people's ideas, too. He was a good listener. So that's a good combination to be on a committee is being able to contribute and being able to listen. I think that charisma's, like, when he talked people paid attention, because, you know, he was gonna say, that was significant. So that was a good thing. And that just came from, you know, getting to know them a little. So, when we all got together, there were a lot of people at the beginning that were interested in trying to make a difference in the world through peacemaking. So, it was inspiring. And he was creative, too, and used his imagination. That's sort of an important, that's an important part of peacemaking is being able to envision a different future, and also one using avenues you hadn't thought of. So.

Katie Olmsted 17:04
Well, it certainly sounds like a good person to work with on that committee, and then to have this award named for him, do you feel like that was appropriate?

Bob Maher 17:13
Yeah. Yeah, I was the chair, I think, at that point, and we, we all decided that was going to be a good way to remember him and inspire others. So yeah, I was glad to do that.

Katie Olmsted 17:29
So it's a two part question. Why was it so important to remember Paul Swaddling as the individual by putting his name on this award? And why is it so important to continue his legacy through this kind of award?

Bob Maher 17:44
Yeah, well, those are great questions. Well, because Paul stood out as a person who had dedicated his life in the search for peace. So I think we wanted to inspire people to follow the paths that Paul had started on and continue in the work that he was, that he worked on. So that was the idea. And he was -worked on young people's conflicts - of course, you have those when you're a teacher, it's inevitable - so his philosophy matched a lot of the current interest in restorative justice. So they go together well. And so that's how his, why it's important to look at him. And also like his interest in the lives of peacemakers is still relevant today for sure. So he had a sense of the whole, it said he had a special interest in his work with and for the poor. And, and that's also something that's very relevant today. So it's something we need to encourage the broader view by people who are educated and the people that are doing the educating, which I think teachers usually try to do. So it was also good to see his intensity. Peace was really important to him. And that's something else that we want to see continue. I think he has the long view, which is that teaching's making sense of the past and present to create a more peaceful future. It says the application also. So life can be better. Change is inevitable. That was Paul's outlook. So let's change for the better since we're going to change. So I think those are words we need in to inspire us today. And it's a dynamic view of history, which I agree with, as Martin Luther King said, "The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I think that's what Paul believed, too. That was what he tried to live out in his life.

Katie Olmsted 19:58
Now going back real quick to one of the things you've mentioned a couple of times, you've mentioned his intensity. Intense people are wonderful people, sometimes intense people are really intense, and that's, uh, it's an experience to be around intense people. What was it like for you being around such intensity?

Bob Maher 20:19
Well, he worked hard at what he believed in, but he didn't - He was able to, at least when in working with other teachers, like we were, he was able to step back a little. He had a good sense of humor, which helped. But he also was able to say, you know, this is what we're going to be able to do, because, you know, we had a limited amount of time, all teachers do, so you do what you can, and he was able to keep that as an attitude. So,

Katie Olmsted 20:52
A realistic optimist.

Bob Maher 20:55
Yes, didn't feel really prodded.

Katie Olmsted 21:00
Well, it sounds like he was a wonderful person, and I'm so glad that his legacy is living on through this award. Thank you for sharing your memories.

Bob Maher 21:08
Okay, thanks a lot.

Katie Olmsted 21:10
As we mentioned at the top of this episode, the application deadline for all of the OEA awards and scholarships is January 27 2023. You can find the link for more information and the applications in the show notes for this episode. Until next time, stay well

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