Tens of thousands of students have passed through the Lorain County Joint Vocational School.
Along the way, they learned valuable life lessons from teacher Samuel M. Battle, who eventually became assistant principal.
When someone got in trouble, it was Battle who tried to get at the root of the problem so it wouldn’t happen again.
He was a friend as well as mentor to the 1,200 kids who attend the school, said Amanda Rundle, a 1998 JVS graduate.
“He was like the dad of the JVS,” Rundle said. “No matter what our dreams, he supported us.”
Battle, who began teaching at JVS satellite programs in 1973, retires this month.
He seems to be held in awe by everyone who knows him — including JVS Superintendent John Nolan.
“He’s the finest man I’ve ever met,” Nolan said.
A father and educator
As Father’s Day approached, Battle posed for photos with two of his three children and talked about his dual roles as father and educator.
A sense of humor helps make the learning process easier at school and at home, he said.
“I think education should be enjoyable and useful,” Battle said. “If you make it enjoyable, it will be useful.”
As for child rearing, Battle gives a lot of credit to his wife, Sandra, for a philosophy of listening — and trusting.
Children don’t grow up overnight and need time to learn and process their own emotions and desires, he said.
“Let them be themselves,” Battle said. “There’s no need to get excited, listening goes a long way with kids.”
That’s probably why Facebook is so popular with the latest generation of youth because it helps them stay connected, he said.
Two of Battle’s children, Duane, 37, and Christa, 23, are following in his footsteps.
After working at Fox 8 news, Duane obtained his teaching certificate and operates the performing arts studio at the new $70 million Elyria High School.
Duane said he hopes to cultivate the same relationship with his students as his dad has developed over the years.
“He has this certain charisma,” he said.
Duane’s younger sister, Christa, just graduated from Cleveland State University. She plans to pursue additional studies to become a school psychologist.
A third child, Risa, 34, has a number of disabilities and lives at home. She delights in caring for plants and feeding the birds.
Like many handicapped people, Risa doesn’t like to be called special or disabled, her dad said.
Before Risa was born — and not knowing he would have a handicapped child himself — Battle began operating a bowling league for children with physical and mental challenges.
He continues to this day.
While Risa doesn’t like to bowl, she likes helping her dad with tasks related to the league such as preparing medals.
“They just want people to have respect for their wishes and wants,” Battle said of his daughter and others like her.
Learning to lead
Battle, now 60, lives in Elyria but grew up in Lima as the youngest of 10 children of Lizzie and Sam Battle.
His dad worked at General Motors and his mom at a hospital in housekeeping.
“I never understood why my parents worked so hard,” Battle said.
The family stressed education as a way to climb the ladder to success.
After graduating from college, Battle remembers getting ready for a round of job interviews. His mom knew he had no dress clothes and made it her business to get him some.
“She said, ‘You’ve got a package coming to you,’ ” Battle recalled.
Inside were a neatly folded sports jacket and other clothing, and Battle’s reputation as a sharp dresser was forged.
Looking good makes you feel good, he said.
“You have to dress for success,” Battle said.
The clothing may not make the man, but a tie goes a long way in showing people a man is serious, he said.
“If I have my tie on, the students are less sassy,” Battle said with a laugh.
The early years were tight, but Battle was up to the challenge, taking on extra jobs to fill in the gaps in the family budget.
He served as timekeeper at athletic events and worked with the mentally and physically challenged with the Lorain County Advocacy Program.
A community leader
Battle is a leader in the Elyria Rotary Club and leads District 6600’s Interact clubs, Rotary International’s service clubs for young people ages 12 to 18.
He also oversees Rotaract, the Rotary-sponsored service clubs for young men and women ages 18 to 30.
People would be surprised to discover how many young people are involved in helping others, he said.
“Kids do an awful lot in the community,” Battle said.
In his retirement, Battle plans to devote additional time to the goal of having an Interact Club in every school district.
Battle is a “top notch” individual who keeps Rotary relevant and doing good for others, said longtime Rotarian John Blevins of Elyria.
The programs for young people will reap rewards well into the future, Blevins said.
“Kids have become involved because of him,” Blevins said. “He really pushes it and students see the benefit.”
“You really learn to look beyond yourself,” Blevins said. “It is better to give than receive.”
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or email@example.com.