The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 12, 2013

Staying involved: Even retired, teacher remains active as coach, adviser

Frank Sojak

— Mindy Leonard enjoyed watching her students succeed during her many years as an educator, student council adviser and coach for the high school girls’ volleyball team in the Shade-Central City School District.

Even though she retired as a teacher at the end of the last school term with 33 years of service, she will continue to teach students about democracy, leadership and teamwork as student council adviser.

Leonard also will remain as the head coach for girls’ volleyball.

In addition to her role as student council adviser at Shade, she has been helping students by serving on District 6 of the Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils for the past six years. She has been nominated for another three-year term.

She said being the student council adviser was her favorite role as a teacher.

“That’s because you can involve a realm of students,” said Leonard, who was in that position for 28 years. “You can take a student who normally does not get involved and get them involved.

“Hopefully, the students will learn leadership skills that they can use later in life. The skills will help them to be successful in their careers.”

Several of her former student council presidents are employed by the school district. One is the school nurse and two others teach at the elementary school.

“One has graduated from the (U.S.) Naval Academy. I have some who are working on Wall Street,” she said.

Leonard said she is proud of all of the students who have served on student council over the years.

Their parents and other teachers have had a positive influence on them and they have a good work ethic, she said. Student council was able to nurture those standards, she said.

Leonard’s role as adviser included helpingā€ˆstudent council to conduct fundraisers for community service projects and activities such as homecoming.

A popular fundraiser was the Easter candy project.

“The entire school and community were involved,” she said.

The teachers helped student council to help others by holding dress-down days to raise money for scholarships. Teachers paid a sum of money to dress casually for the day with between $1,500 and $1,800 in scholarships being distributed each year, she said.

Leonard also is proud of her volleyball players.

“I’ve had players who were very successful,” said Leonard, who has been with the program for 28 years.

Leonard said she has coached players such as Kim Kolonich, now a physician in Lewistown, Mifflin County, who received a scholarship for Lehigh University in Bethlehem, an NCAA Division I school.

Leonard’s daughter Abby played volleyball at Juniata College, Huntingdon, with the team taking the NCAA Division III championship one year.

Other players have received scholarships for Pitt-Johns-town, Mount Aloysius and other colleges, she said.

“I Iove it,” she said about coaching. “Coaching is an extension of the classroom.”

Students have to have good grades to play, she said.

“You have to be sharp,” she said. “You have to use intelligence to play the game, and you have to stay physically fit.”

Leonard met her husband of 32 years, Paul, while both were employed at Shade. Her husband was the athletic director and a high school baseball coach before retiring three years ago.

Leonard said she is proud of her three children.

 Abby is a teacher in the Big Spring School District near Shippensburg; Jesse, Abby’s twin, is head baseball coach and head of public safety at Juniata College; and Benjamin, the youngest, is a lieutenant in the Army.

Joseph Skura, who knows Leonard through his role as student council adviser and girls’ volleyball coach at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg, said Leonard is the epitome of leadership.

“She has a heart of gold, and she is always thinking of others,” Skura said. “She loves her students and is always smiling.

“She is one of those people who is always looking out for those around her and just brightens your day with her presence.

“Mindy’s selflessness in the student council and coaching realm is respected by many. She has put in countless hours to ensure that student council is alive and well in our district, and she has stepped up to the plate numerous times for the students of this area.”

Sean Wechtenhiser, principal of Shade-Central City High School, said Leonard, whether working as a teacher, coach or adviser of student council, always has the best interests of the students at heart.

“She has been a positive influence and a role model to over two generations of students and athletes at Shade,” he said.

“She has given an unbelievable amount of her time outside of school to working with athletes as well as with student council.

“Mrs. Leonard will still be involved with volleyball, student council, senior class and homecoming, but she will be greatly missed in the classroom, and on a day-to-day basis in the high school.”

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