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02-20-03: Area teacher nears finish line
The Daily Standard
    COLDWATER - The two dozen or so English 12 students appeared captivated Tuesday afternoon as teacher Henry "Hank" Schwieterman explained Dante's trip through hell from the early 14th century novel "Inferno."
    Maybe it was the topic of hell that the students found amusing, or perhaps it was the towering teacher who brought the story to life and threw in some humor to peak their interest.
    "Mr. Schwieterman tries to incorporate what we're studying to teach us about life," said high school senior Matt Lefeld. "He's not a textbook-type teacher. He's a really passionate teacher."
    Schwieterman, 58, is in his 35th year of teaching - 33 of those years at Coldwater High School - and is retiring the last day of February. Although he plans to return as a substitute teacher in May, his full-time teaching days are over.
    "I've been very, very blessed with the community of Coldwater and the people here, especially those whom I've worked with," he said as tears filled his eyes. "I'm going to miss them all ... I've met so many dedicated people."
    It's no secret that Schwieterman, who also teaches journalism, wears his heart on his sleeve. As junior high and high school track and cross country coach for 29 years, he frequently became teary-eyed at annual sports banquets while saying goodbye to departing Cav seniors.
    But it is that undying love and support for his students that made him a favorite teacher and coach to many like 1997 graduate Karla Klosterman, a track and cross country standout at the school.
    "He always believed in me as an individual runner and all of us as a team, and that is what helped our (track) team win three consecutive state championships," said Klosterman, whom Schwieterman coached for six years.
    Klosterman, now 23 and a special education teacher in San Diego, Calif., was an intricate part of the Coldwater Cavaliers' girls high school track team, which won state titles in 1994, 1995 and 1996.
    Klosterman said Schwieterman's inspiring words remained with her as she attended the University of Dayton on a four-year athletic scholarship in track and field. "Coach helped me keep things in perspective without getting caught up in the media and outside influences that kept me from being focused."
    Schwieterman was named MAC coach of the year 20 times, District 7 Coach of the Year in 1994 (girls track), and coached cross country and track teams to 21 league titles in the past three decades. As a teacher, one of his most memorable accomplishments was being invited to speak at the National Council of Teachers in Cincinnati in the early 1980s, he said.
    Schwieterman was born and raised just across the state line in Indiana and attended a Catholic elementary school in Fort Recovery. He graduated from Brunnerdale High School Seminary, and later the University of Dayton where he received a bachelor's degree in secondary English and a Latin minor. He taught the first two years at Wilbur Wright and Northmont high schools in the Dayton area before coming to Coldwater in August 1970.
    "The first year in Coldwater I coached junior high basketball at St. Anthony. I always wanted to be a head basketball coach," Schwieterman said, adding that he later spent several years as Coldwater's assistant high school basketball coach.
    Schwieterman, inducted into the Ohio High School Athletic Association's Coaches Hall of Fame last year, said he knew "absolutely nothing" about track or cross country when he and teacher Ted Cully signed on to co-coach track in the early '70s. The pair were told early on to get a bus license so they could drive the team to events. So they did.
     "I believe Coldwater built its all-weather track as early as it did due to Hank's efforts," Cully said. "The excellence and organization that you see at a Coldwater track or cross country meet today are due to his leadership.
    "Henry is very professional, always on task in the classroom, trying to do what is right and good for the students and fellow teachers. His integrity and honesty make me feel proud to be a friend," Cully said.
    Tim Hoyng, another fellow teacher, friend and coach, shared these words about Schwieterman: "Hank taught like he coached with heart, passion, sincerity and a genuine care and concern for his athletes and students."
    Schwieterman wore many hats, Hoyng said. One of those was bus driver; he has driven a bus route every morning for 27 years. Fittingly, his second floor room overlooks the school's bus garage.
    Schwieterman has no specific plans in mind for his retirement other than to spend time with his wife, Joyce, of nearly 35 years. The couple has four grown children, Pam, Gina, Lynn and Betsy. Two of his daughters are teachers and one is currently in college studying to be one.
    Watching his students bloom into better educated and responsible youths has always encouraged him as a teacher, he said.
    "Sometimes seeing that average kid coming around as a senior, maybe never quite the top dog in school, but realizing they could accomplish something, that's what teaching is all about," he said.


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