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True color shines through halls of Huron’s elementary school

Jason Werling • Mar 16, 2014 at 8:26 AM

The color yellow has been associated with cowardice. "What are you, yellow?" is a term I can remember from several cartoons and westerns growing up. But the color yellow at Shawnee Elementary School in Huron couldn't be any more opposite than cowardice. Yellow at Shawnee symbolizes courage.

From the yellow smiley face button a visitor pushes to enter the school to the yellow Volkswagon Beetle people see when they exit the school, one has to wonder what all the yellow is about.

Look for the yellow office at the school and you will find your answer and the school's principal Tanny Vonthron. She is sometimes ribbed for the color of the room, but what other color would you pick to serve as a backdrop for hundreds of smiley faces?

Vonthron's biggest fans at the school are some of the smallest people which is evident with all of the hellos and hugs she receives in the hallway and all of the drawings that adorn the yellow walls of the office.

When I asked Tanny how she felt as they started to announce her as the woman of the year she thanked a lot of people. Here's what she had to say...

"As the MC began describing the Woman of the Year, I was touched to hear the many things that we had in common. When she shared MY personal treatment information, including my diagnosis date; my mind started racing. I turned to look at my friends at the table as she said my name and asked me to join her up front. The biggest and best surprise was finding my immediate family members beside me on the main stage! I am honored to be the 2012 Woman of the Year and I am all of the things that were said about me because of my amazing family, friends (many of which are also my colleagues), students (past and present), medical team and the Huron Community."

Yep, yellow symbolizes courage at Shawnee Elementary.

Below is the story from the presentation at last Wednesday's Girls' Night Out at Kalahari...

By Johnna Young

Girls’ Night Out co-founders Doug and Gretchen Studer presented roses to Satanta “Tanny” Vonthron, principal of Shawnee Elementary School in Huron, during the eighth annual Girls’ Night Out charity event on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Kalahari Resort Convention Center. Vonthron was selected as the 2012 Girls’ Night Out Woman of the Year.

The local benefit was attended by 1,600 women and raised money for Cancer Services, the Fisher-Titus Mammography Fund, the Firelands Regional Medical Center Cancer Program Fund and North Coast Cancer Foundation.

“Each year, the committee selects a woman who possesses all the qualities that make someone a Girls’ Night Out ‘Woman of the Year’,” said Doug Studer, co-founder of Girls’ Night Out. “All past recipients have been shining examples of exceptional women who have made an impact on the lives of cancer patients and survivors. Tanny is a great example of someone who possesses these qualities. She has been a great example of someone who continues to shine even during adversity.”

Vonthron touches the lives of hundreds of people each and every day. She is a tireless worker who has dedicated her life to educating children, said Studer.

Teaching has been a very rewarding career for the young woman. She describes the light that comes into the eyes of a child, especially one with special needs when they realize that they finally understand a concept after working so hard – “you can’t put a price on that, it’s just wondrous.”

Things were going so well for the young educator when on April 30, 2009, she was diagnosed with cancer. In the ensuing 39 months since her “day of infamy,” Tanny has undergone five surgeries, 35 radiation treatments, 16 months of chemotherapy and lost all her hair three separate times. There have been two re-occurrences of the disease which physicians now speak of only in terms of controlling, rather than curing.

“Her philosophy says it all… ‘we are all terminal, none of us knows our expiration date, so we’d better make the most of each day that we’ve been given’,” said Studer.

Returning to her hometown after teaching in Archbold, she has worked at Woodlands Elementary, teaching at the elementary level and then served as a teacher at Huron High School. Then a job at Shawnee opened up in 2008.

She greeted the more than 300 new students that fall and quickly set about learning each and every one’s name. She loves to tell them the story of how she attended school there and that someday they could return to be the principal, as she has done. A huge fan of bright yellow “Smiley faces,” her signature yellow VW “bug” can be seen many nights and weekends in the Shawnee parking lot while she tackles the pile of paperwork that goes with her job.

The 1992 Huron High graduate earned a degree in special education from Bowling Green State University, and while teaching full-time, went on to receive a master’s degree in school administration and a principal’s license from BGSU. Then it was on to the University of Findlay, where she completed classes for a superintendent’s license.

Vonthron also worked for a publisher of children’s educational materials in Charlotte, N.C., and has authored and published six children’s books and countless songs and rhymes.

Past Girls’ Night Out Woman of the Year winners include Sheri Thomas (2005), owner of Sheri's Coffeehouse in Norwalk and breast cancer survivor; Pat Scheid (2006) of Monroeville, instrumental in creating the Fisher-Titus Mammography Fund and breast cancer survivor; Peg Miller (2007), Director of Cancer Services and an advocate for local cancer patients; Mary Biglin (2008), retired oncology nurse at Firelands Regional Medical Center and former member of Cancer Services board of directors, Pam Kidd (2008), Cancer Services volunteer and breast cancer survivor; Gretchen Studer (2009), co-founder of Girls’ Night Out and co-owner of Curves in Sandusky and Joan Van Offeren (2010), executive director of the Erie County Visitors & Convention Bureau and the late Cynthia Sanders (2011), founder of Dorcas’ Closet, who lost her battle to cancer this year.

About Girls’ Night Out:

Girls’ Night Out is a charity event that benefits Cancer Services, Fisher-Titus Mammography Fund, Firelands Regional Medical Center Cancer Program Fund and North Coast Cancer Foundation. Doug and Gretchen Studer of Huron founded the Girls’ Night Out event in 2005 as a way to give back to the community and to support local cancer programs. More than $230,000 has been raised in seven years and distributed locally through the Girls’ Night Out event. Girls’ Night Out’s 2011 event was named the Best Non Profit Fundraiser of 2011 in Cleveland Business Connects (CBC) Fifth Annual Connectors Choice Awards.

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