The Dick Fanazick Award was created by HawkSoft’s founders in honor of an elementary school teacher who profoundly impacted Sean Hawkins and shaped the course of his family’s life, ultimately culminating in the creation of HawkSoft. The award serves as an opportunity for HawkSoft agents to recognize the mentors who have changed them for the better and helped them become the people they are today.
We’re honored to congratulate our very first winner of the Dick Fanazick Award, nominated by HawkSoft customer Michael Ley of Ley Insurance: Patricia (Pat) Meeks, the band teacher who helped him develop the determination to achieve his goals in the face of adversity. Her impact helped Michael to become the successful agency owner he is today.
Paul Hawkins presented the award during a recent virtual Town Hall meeting for those who had registered for the 2020 HUG National Conference. “The Dick Fanazick Award is my passion,” he said. “Dick Fanazick changed the life of our family in such a huge way, and in turn the lives of our employees and customers. Without him, none of us would be here today. Pat, thank you for making a similar impact on the lives of our future leaders. Our children are our most important resource, and I thank you for all that you’ve done.”
Pat and Michael will each receive a $250 gift card, as well as a $1,000 donation from HawkSoft to the charity of their choice. Pat has chosen to donate to the Ohio Foundation for Music Education and the American Cancer Society, and Michael has chosen the National Brain Tumor Society.
This article at a glance:
Pat Meeks: an extraordinary teacher
Pat Meeks is the Director of Bands for Shawnee Local Schools in Lima, Ohio, where she and an assistant teach band for grades 5 through 12. “I like the variety,” she says of teaching such a wide age range. “It’s very gratifying to have a student for 8 years. When you take a 5th-grader and hand them an instrument they don’t know anything about and stay with them all the way through when they graduate high school, it’s wonderful to see their development. I have a lot of students who come back to see me because I’ve been a part of their lives for so many years. It’s the best part of my job.”
Pat originally set out to study mathematics, but after taking a music theory class realized that her true passion was for music. She has a BME and MA in Music Education from Eastern Kentucky University, with additional graduate work at the University of Akron. Throughout her teaching career she has done extensive volunteer work with the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA), including serving a term as its president and traveling to Washington, DC, to advocate for music and the arts at the annual leadership assembly of the National Association for Music Education.
While she has received many awards for her outstanding leadership (including the OMEA Distinguished Service Award in 2017 and the 2018 Arts Creator of the Year award from the Arts Advocacy of West Central Ohio) and has led her band groups to collect around 60 state awards in her time as a teacher, that isn’t the motivating factor for her. She says, “I think too often we look at the results of music education: the concerts, the marching band. And that’s really the least important. Music education is a day to day process. That’s where we see children blossom.”
Pat is now in her 40th year of teaching, and has taught multiple generations of students in her classroom, including a 5th-grader whose grandmother was in Pat’s very first music class. Pat tried retirement for 2 years, but jokes that she “failed” at it. After taking a substitute teaching position that was supposed to last 6 weeks but ended up taking 6 months, she says “I realized I still loved teaching and wanted to get back to it.” When the teacher who had replaced her resigned to take another position, the school asked her to return and she gladly accepted.
"When you pick up an instrument you have to be engaged 100% of the time. There are some days you don’t want to do it, but learning to stick with it teaches students that when things are tough in life, they can’t give up.”
- Pat Meeks
Many of Pat’s students have gone on to become successful musicians or music directors across the country, but she’s just as proud of those who have taken what they’ve learned from music into other careers. “What they did in the arts helped build them into the people they are now,” she says. “There are no shortcuts in learning an instrument. The computer has not made it any easier. Kids are so used to everything in their world being fast, and this is a slow process. It teaches them determination and grit. In band you can’t sit in the back of the class and hide. When you pick up an instrument you have to be engaged 100% of the time. There are some days you don’t want to do it, but learning to stick with it teaches students that when things are tough in life, they can’t give up.”
Video tribute for Pat's Arts Advocacy 2018 Creator of the Year Award
One student’s story: Michael Ley’s award nomination
Elementary and middle school
Michael’s nomination for Pat chronicles her influence on his life starting with his earliest experiences with music in 5th grade: “From a young age, I knew music was a passion of mine. In middle school, I started out playing percussion instruments and then turned to trumpet. In high school, I picked up a few other instruments, but all of this was with the help and dedication of Pat. Through middle school, I always remember her and the co-teacher Mr. Simmons interacting with each student, showing them precisely how to hold, play, etc an instrument while sitting beside them and playing along with them. At a young age I learned about setting goals and how to reach those goals based off the plans that she put together. Friday night football games were the place to be! I remember standing along the fence as the high school marching band marched into the stadium. As a kid, I wanted to be just like those high schoolers. Just like that band director. You could see the passion, the drive, and the dedication each of them had.”
Pat remembers Michael fondly, noting that even before she had Michael as a student starting in 5th grade, she knew his mother, who she took band with in high school and who later became the band booster president for a time. “Michael was one of those young children that I wasn’t sure would stick with it at first,” she says, “because he would tend to get frustrated quickly if things didn’t come right to him. I just kept telling him that everything we want in life doesn’t always come easy, and that he could get through this. I kept encouraging him, and he got more confident and developed that I’m not going to give up attitude.”
As he started high school, marching band was a struggle for Michael. “I had, at that time, quite a few health issues,” he says. “We spent a lot of time outdoors, running drills, memorizing music, and practicing over and over and over and over again to get the show right for our competitions that we would have on the weekends. Pat's love and passion always showed through our shows and the hard work always paid off in the ‘hardware,’ aka trophies and superior ratings we would receive. My freshman year was probably my worst year health wise. Many times, I would leave the field and pass out due to my heart condition. There were many times I wanted to quit or not be there at all in fear something would happen. I recall one specific rehearsal on a Friday morning running the drill and Pat walking by me as I wasn't playing. She called me out on it, which in turn led to a verbal altercation.”
Pat remembers the incident as well: “Marching band was a really big challenge for him physically, but he never gave up. I remember one day he was faking playing, and I told him I need you to give 100%, because you’re not going to be satisfied with yourself unless you give 100%.”
This had a profound impact on Michael. “It was that day that I really learned respect, honesty, and so much more,” he says. “No matter how bad I wanted to quit. No matter how bad I screwed up. I walked into her office after school to apologize and have a pretty hard conversation. We discussed her passion for music, the goals she has for each student, and why she pushes each one of us. She knew what we were capable of. She knew what I was capable of.”
Pat’s unshakable faith in him left a deep impression on Michael. “It's easy to forget a student who is quiet, sits back, and doesn't stand out,” he notes. “It's easy to lose a student because they are in and out of the hospital for a year. It's easy to move on to the next group after graduation. Pat never did that. She never gave up. She never gave up pushing me to be the best me. She encouraged me to move past the obstacles in my way. Encouraged me to set and fly past those goals.”
"Pat never gave up pushing me to be the best me. She encouraged me to move past the obstacles in my way. Encouraged me to set and fly past those goals.”
- Michael Ley
Because of her encouragement, Michael continued pursuing music and even became the marching band drum major his junior and senior year, a leadership position in the band. “It was so fun to see this little boy blossom into a confident young adult and become a strong leader,” Pat reflects.
An inspiration, then and now
Michael acknowledges that his leadership experience as drum major helped him far past his high school years. “What I didn't know then,” he says, “was that leadership push, that push for results, goals, and hard work would become part of my life. I have had many hardships in the past 17 years since graduating high school: losing a job, losing family members, running a business, and now owning the business every step of the way. Those traits that were instilled in me, those habits that were ingrained in each of us those eight years we had Pat as a teacher, have been utilized in my everyday life. Sitting down to chart out my course for the year is related to charting out my path on the field. Leading people on the field became leading people off the field, not only as a student but now as a manager and owner.”
"Those habits that were ingrained in each of us those eight years we had Pat as a teacher have been utilized in my everyday life...Leading people on the field became leading people off the field, not only as a student but now as a manager and owner."
- Michael Ley
As they still live in the same community, Pat and Michael have stayed in touch throughout the years. “I’ve remained close with him because he’s active in the music and arts community in Lima,” Pat says. “We’ll see each other several times a year at events. It’s so much fun to see him all grown up with a family. I love that part of my job.”
Michael shares that Pat continues to influence and inspire him as an adult. “Three years ago,” he says, “when my mom passed away after a grueling seven-month battle of brain cancer, who was the person that showed up at the funeral home? Patricia Meeks. I'm sure there were quite a few things said that day, but as she came up to me and hugged me, she said, ‘Your mom was so proud of you. I'm so proud of you and who you have become. I'm so sorry.’ Words I won't ever forget.”
Pat echoed this sentiment again when she accepted the Dick Fanazick Award: “I’m so proud of Michael, and I’m so glad to be a part of this award. The older I get, the more I realize that life really is about people. I researched HawkSoft when they contacted me about this award, and I can see that’s how they feel as well. I was glad to see that, because that’s what is most important in life.”
Continuing the Dick Fanazick Legacy
In his nomination, Michael beautifully sums up the many reasons why Pat is so deserving of the 2020 Dick Fanazick Award: “Patricia Meeks is more than an educator. She's a mom, a wife, a sister. She's a leader. She's driven. She's inspiring. No matter how many times I text her, email her, or message her on Facebook to say thank you, it will never be enough for all that she has done for me, my family, and our community.”
It’s not surprising that an overwhelming number of the award committee agreed. We’d like to share some of the comments from the committee about the winning nomination, which was judged without knowing who submitted it.
“I choose this nominee as you can really feel the life-long impact Patricia has had on this writer and how she was able to help the writer overcome many obstacles and hardships from adolescence to adulthood.”
“Patricia, like Dick Fanazick, is an educator who reached out and inspired the nominator and many other students to become their best.”
“Such a beautiful story of a young boy with health issues and a love of music, and a teacher who believed in him and kept encouraging him.”
“Patricia’s nomination shows that she did, in fact, have a profound impact on Pat's (and, most likely, other's) lives, embodying the Dick Fanazick Award.”
“There were repeated unique references to how Patricia helped the nominator. It wasn't just one event, but multiple events of support throughout the life of the nominator.”
“The submission talked about those pivotal moments that impacted this person’s life. How Patricia was influential on his life and his life choices. That her belief in him and the other students encouraged them to reach beyond themselves and their limits.”
“This nomination made me cry! Pat is the ultimate teacher, one who obviously made a difference in the lives of many of her past students. The kind of teacher who sees into the soul of her students and knows how to push them to be the best they can be, and who recognizes those who may need encouragement along the way. What an inspirational woman!”
Upon learning that Pat won the award, Michael told us, "I wouldn't be who I am or where I am today without some of the traits that Patricia drilled into us as students. I am so grateful for all that she has done and continues to do for her students. I am also very grateful that HawkSoft provides such an award for teachers and mentors in our communities. Thank you to all those involved!" Along with Michael, the award committee, and the countless students she’s inspired throughout her life, HawkSoft is honored to add our voice in saying thank you to Pat for embodying the true spirit of the Dick Fanazick Award in touching countless lives.
Learn more about the Dick Fanazick Award