Zionsville’s top students honored with celebratory breakfast

“The future is in good hands with leaders like Sam,” three-time honoree Lee Banitt said about former chemistry student Samantha Petrie.
“The future is in good hands with leaders like Sam,” three-time honoree Lee Banitt said about former chemistry student Samantha Petrie.

By Devynn Barnes

ZCHS’ brightest graduating seniors gathered early Thursday morning with their families and their favorite teachers to celebrate their success as the academic top 5% of their class. The select group of 22 students individually nominated a teacher from the Zionsville Community School system who had significantly impacted them, and then delivered a short speech about why they chose them. The earnest speeches made for an emotional and memorable breakfast.

The Rotary Club of Zionsville hosted the event at the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Boone Village. The nominated faculty members, students, and their families gathered at the church around 7 a.m. to begin the ceremony.

After helping themselves to a wide spread of fruit, bagels, and breakfast pastries, the seniors and their nominated teacher took the stage one by one, exchanging heartfelt speeches about their admiration for one another.

“The lessons you have taught me will carry me far beyond the walls of our school,” senior Ryan Bing said of ZCHS history teacher Dave Rodgers.

The other students had similar sentiments for their selected teachers, ranging from those who had taught them in the third grade to senior year. In a particularly emotional exchange, senior Joshua Kirkham thanked Greg Kirkham for not only being the most influential teacher he’s had, but the best father as well.

“I told him my speech would be short because I’d be crying,” Joshua’s father said, adding that, “It’s truly a privilege to live with Josh.”

Lee Banitt, a former chemistry teacher at ZCHS now teaching at Hamilton Southeastern, took the morning to return to Zionsville and be honored by three separate top 5 percent students.

“Mr. Banitt is the beast teacher I’ve ever had- it’s as simple as that,” senior Samantha Petrie said. Her classmates, Siena Cornacchini and Lindsey Wells felt the same way, as they too selected Banitt.

The group of outstanding students have exciting futures ahead of them, complete with college careers beginning at the University of Chicago, Vanderbilt, Purdue University, UNC Chapel Hill and many other impressive schools. Though their days in the Zionsville Community School system are coming to a close, the influence those days have had was evident Thursday morning. Science teacher and honoree Lori Bing spoke of how she’ll miss this year’s senior class, and the influence they had on the faculty as well.

“I never have to go to work,” She said. “I get to go to school every day.”