By Josh Stipanovich
For 44 years, he could be heard teaching social studies in the corner classroom at the end of the hall of Canfield Village Middle school.
For 27 years, he could be seen on the sidelines of the gymnasium as the only eighth-grade girls basketball coach in school history, before his retirement.
Friday, the school board unanimously passed a motion to ensure that anyone who visits the gym will still see his name, which will be painted in front of the bench from which he coached for nearly three decades.
Spectators, coaches, players and referees alike will be entering Coach Ken Reel’s court.
The court will be named after the longtime educator who died of cancer earlier this month.
Mike Merritt had Reel as a teacher when he was in eighth grade, was later hired to teach eighth-grade math in the same hallway as Reel and shared the gym with Reel for 11 years as the eighth-grade boys basketball coach.
Merrit is one of the people who spearheaded the idea of naming the court for Reel.
He said he initially wanted to close Reel’s classroom and use it as a place for people to come and visit to remember him. But that wasn’t feasible as the district needed the classroom space.
He said naming the court was the next best thing.
“If you asked any ref what coach they would like to ref, it would be [Reel],” Merritt said. “He played every girl in every game. He would do anything for you.”
Merritt said the gym floor is scheduled for work this summer, which is when the middle school’s head janitor will be painting Reel’s name on the court.
“It’s a tribute and an honor, and it’s about time,” said Sabrina Eaton, eighth-grade reading and language-arts teacher. “He’s a legend there.”
Eaton also was one of Reel’s students, and, years later, was hired to teach across the hall from him.
“That would be just another presence of him at the middle school,” Eaton added.
The board had to revise policy to make it happen, because previously it said the district couldn’t name anything after anyone unless that person has been deceased for at least one year. But that was something the board was willing to do.
“He was an exceptional teacher,” said Phil Bova, board member. “I ask students who their best teachers were, and almost everyone said ‘Ken Reel.’ The ones who didn’t have him didn’t mention Ken Reel, but if they had him, he was their best teacher.”
“He’s an icon,” Adrienne Sturm, another board member, said. “He’s always gone beyond the call of duty in every aspect of his teaching.”
Sturm was admittedly wary of revising policy because she felt the one year was put in place to avoid exceptions.
“You’ll have that come back to the board,” Sturm said during the meeting. “If you didn’t wait for Mr. Reel, then we want ours today, too.”
“And as soon as you measure up to Ken Reel’s standards, we’ll make that decision,” Brian Kessner, school-board member, replied.
Alex Geordan, Canfield schools superintendent, recommended that the board take action Friday and not to wait any longer.
“Dozens of students he taught are now teaching students, and carrying on the profession in the professional manner that he taught,” Geordan said.