FOLEY – The Vosloh Foundation, founded in 2008, was established by Sue and David Vosloh to give back to the Foley community by honoring civil servants. The awards began with the Foley Police Officer of the Year and the Foley High School Teacher of the Year, who would each receive $1,000 with the taxes paid by their employers. The Foundation has grown over the years to now include not only the Police Department and the High School, but also the Fire Department, Foley Elementary, Foley Intermediate, and Foley Middle.
Starting in 2012 the Vosloh Foundation partnered with the Foley Rotary Club, which now provides funds for one of the six awards with the Foundation providing the rest.
“Foley is the only place in the state of Alabama where employees are recognized with something more than just a plaque on the wall, where they actually get $1,000 with only one condition: they have to spend it on themselves or their spouse,” said David Vosloh.
In addition to the monetary award, Gulf Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Moyer Ford in Foley also offer recipients the opportunity to purchase a new vehicle at actual costs with no mark up.
FOLEY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Second-grade teacher Colleen Ard was the winner for Foley Elementary School after Principal Dr. Michelle Moore spoke with Ard’s colleagues and students.
“The faculty and staff are very proud to present Colleen Ard as our Teacher of the Year,” said Moore. “She is very deserving of this recognition, and is kind and gentle with a servant’s heart. I have only been principal at Foley Elementary for a short time, however during this time it was easy for me to identify Mrs. Ard as exceptional. Her demeaner with students and coworkers, parents and others is second to none.”
Ard has been a teacher for eleven years, and was spotlighted by her coworkers as well as her students as being dependable and helpful to all around her.
“I love my job, and hopefully it shows in my students,” said Ard. “I enjoy coming to work and seeing the growth that our students make every day.”
FOLEY INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL
“There are so many wonderful things I could say about our Teacher of the Year, Emily Rankin,” said Principal Dr. Shannon McCurdy of Foley Intermediate School. “She’s only a third-year teacher, but she’s just a ray of sunshine, she brings so much happiness and joy to Foley Intermediate School. When I’m hiring to fill the school, I model those candidates after teachers like Emily Rankin, because she is always positive, she is always supporting her fellow teachers, she is always being a child’s advocate.”
“I love my job, it’s the best job and it’s so rewarding to see my students work so hard all year,” said Rankin. “It’s the most rewarding job I feel like I could have had, because I get to be where I want to be. The kids don’t judge me, if I want to put on a pirate costume to teach my lesson, they’re like ‘Yes!’ The kids just make it so rewarding for me.”
FOLEY MIDDLE SCHOOL
“You give the kids a path, a sense of direction, and the kids are going to follow it,” said Foley Middle School Principal Danny McDuffie. “You set the standard of what you want them to do, they’re going to do it. And our Teacher of the Year, Robin Clarke, raises that bar every day in the classroom, every day with our student government, even with our teachers, pushing them harder.”
Clarke, a 7th grade Geography and Civics teacher, also helps head the History Department at the Middle School as well as running the student government which meets after school.
“I got into teaching because I have a passion for young people, and I felt like I was somebody who could make a difference in the lives of young children,” said Clarke. “What I found out very quickly was the thing that keeps you coming back is that as much of an impact you feel like you have on these children, you get it back ten times. They’ve impacted my life in so many positive ways and that’s the thing that keeps me coming back every single day.”
FOLEY HIGH SCHOOL
Foley High Principal Russ Moore stated the school was very lucky to have found two certified athletic trainers who held teaching degrees, one of who was voted the 2019 Teacher of the Year, Sean Ahonen.
“Coaches in general put in a lot of hours, and the two at our school work all three athletic seasons plus the summertime, so they don’t really take any time off at all,” said Moore. “Any day of the school year they could likely be at the school until eight or nine at night taking care of a student after a game, and Sean Ahonen’s dedication to the educational process in general is why I think our staff chose him.”
Along with being the athletic trainer, Ahonen offered to help within the Health Occupational classes when the teacher seemed overwhelmed by the number of kids who wanted to be in the program. Ahonen suggested that certification-wise he could help with the entry level course, which wasn’t required of him.
“I think so much of a teacher’s job is not in the job description,” Ahonen said. “You have to be passionate, but teachers do so much extra that we don’t always get credit for. I appreciate getting to work at Foley High School, the kids love the environment we have.”
FOLEY FIRE DEPARTMENT
“I’d like to thank the City of Foley because when it comes to this, they make my job hard, because they make it possible for us to hire, train, and maintain the best of the best,” said Foley Fire Chief Joey Darby. “When we try to select somebody who stands out, it makes my job hard, but I welcome the challenge each and every day, that is an awesome challenge to have.”
This year the Fire Department chose Marcus Luhta as their winner, who was nominated by his supervisor. The nomination stated that Luhta is proficient in getting the job done and is able to do anything required of him at any time, as well as exhibiting attributes of a model employee.
“I’d like to thank everyone for being such a supportive community, because you don’t have that everywhere,” Luhta said. “I’ve been with the City of Foley a little over five years now, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some fantastic people. I would not be here were it not for the leadership and guidance from each supervisor that I’ve had.”
FOLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT
The recipient from the Foley Police Department is Corporal Michelle Oliver, a highly decorated officer who recently received the promotion to corporal after competing with 16 other officers.
“She is a great employee and an exceptional detective,” said Foley Police Chief David Wilson. “When she gets assigned a serious case, she gives 110 percent to solve it, and she believes in doing everything that she can to solve her cases. She cares about crime victims as well, you can see that in her compassion towards crime victims and it just shows in her work.”
Oliver stated playing sports as a child taught her valuable lessons in teamwork and support, which she brought with her into adulthood.
“Growing up I always wanted to be a police officer, it’s something I love and have a big passion for,” Oliver said. “Which is why it’s so weird standing up here, because this is something I love, not something I think that I stand out with. It’s something that I do. And I want to thank the men and women I work with that help me make this possible. You can be good sitting in a patrol car, you can be good sitting behind a desk being an investigator, but you can’t be awesome without your team.”
Each recipient received their monetary award prior to the event in private ceremonies among their peers.
“Today is one of the days that I’m reassured about this community,” said Foley Mayor John Koniar during closing remarks. “When people ask me what’s the greatest thing about living in Foley, stating we’ve got bays and rivers, we’re just down the road from the beach, I tell them it’s very simple. The greatest thing about Foley is our people, and this is living proof of that. Congratulations to all of our winners this year, they represent themselves and the community well.”