LAKE TWP. Lake Center Christian School (LCCS) teacher Bryan Luton said, “Time flies when you’re are having fun,” referring to his 50 years of being a teacher.
Before school was out for the summer, LCCS honored Luton for his 50 years in education calling it their own “Lincoln Center celebration for a lifetime of achievement.”
The celebration honored Luton’s 50 years of “faithful, outstanding service in education.”
He said the reception was, “very thoughtful and considerate, and I was very touched by the congratulations and well-wishers from so many students and colleagues, both past and present, including my former high school American history teacher, James Dierker.”
Luton said he was truly humbled by “all the fuss made over me for what I consider to be merely continuing to do what I love doing.” However, he said that those that are responsible for where he is today should receive the real recognition because of their influence, direction and guidance.
Born in Akron, his family moved to Springfield Township in 1955. He graduated from Springfield High School in 1965 and continues to live in the township today.
Although he had quite a gift when it came to music his father influenced him to think about a career path in the field of education due to its particular “job perks.” Luton followed his father’s advice and graduated from Kent State University with a B.S. degree in education with a major in mathematics and a minor in music in 1969. He had little foresight at that time that he would be teaching for the next 50 years. His dad would often say, “You can’t beat teaching — three months off in the summer, two weeks at Christmas, a week at Easter, and if the weather is bad, you get to stay home.”
Luton said he was fortunate to have some teachers who were great role models: Betty Marquard and Ronald Ross were math teachers whose style of teaching he liked and whose examples helped persuade him to select mathematics as his major in college.
“Ron Jones and James Dierker, my history teachers, also played a big role in cultivating my interest in American History,” he said.
Luton began teaching mathematics at Springfield High School in 1969. He turned down a business opportunity that potentially would have made him a millionaire because all he wanted to do was teach in the high school that he graduated from, with a salary of $189.02 every two weeks.
After three successful years of teaching, he said he was shocked, along with several other high school teachers, to learn that they were being involuntarily transferred to the junior high. After being left to “sit and soak” in an otherwise unpleasant situation for several years.
"I began to adjust, adapt, and change," Luton said. "I eventually became happily content at the junior high, even when the opportunity came to return to the high school."
After 25 years of teaching, he had an opportunity to further his education and receive a master’s degree in history.
Superintendent of Springfield Local Schools Chuck Sincere said he had the opportunity to teach with Luton. He said they worked out in the mornings before the school day began and often had lunch together.
“You could always count on high quality instruction with Bryan," Sincere said. "He was very interesting to listen to.”
Sincere said he often finds Bryan playing the piano at professional meetings never using music. He plays everything by ear.
Luton has led quite an interesting life. He spent two summers in the 1970s in Latin America after being invited to join a team helping local churches in communities devastated by earthquakes. He went on to spend three summers in Canada playing the piano at a large Christian Conference center. In 1989, he helped smuggle contraband behind the Iron Curtain into Romania to help feed the underground church. His passion for sharing his faith took him to China where he helped smuggle more than two tons of Bibles and Christian literature across the Chinese border, through the Gobi Desert, and into Outer Mongolia to help a group of new, university-aged Christians who had come to faith after having emerged from decades of Communist rule. The following year, in 1992, he assisted a Christian ministry in Bangkok, Thailand, where he spent four summers and where his life was changed. It was there, that he met the women he would marry nine years later in 2001.
“I shocked everyone when I announced my engagement," he said. "Our first child was born two years later, and this ended my 33-consecutive-year perfect attendance record at Springfield schools. Dedication to one’s profession is one thing, but I wouldn’t trade taking my first personal day to be at the hospital when my daughter was born for all the money in the world.”
Soon retirement faced Luton. His retirement benefits were better than his teaching salary after 38 years.
“Although I loved my job at Springfield and working with student-led Christian groups on campus, I sensed that it was time to write a new chapter," Luton said. With a growing family and needing to be a good steward of my resources, I announced my plans to retire.”
Luton said that one of Springfield’s gifted faculty members, Betty Kern, had mentioned that there was a Christian school in Hartville that was in need of a math teacher. After her repeatedly suggesting that he apply, he began teaching full-time at LCCS.
At 54 years of age, Luton married Mem Marie (Prathum Thip) and was further blessed with four children, Katherine, Christina, Jennings (JB) and Hannah. Now, all four of his children attend Lake Center.
“One of whom just completed my 10th grade American History class, and another was in my Algebra class," he said. "My other two children will begin 5th and 3rd grade. At 72 years of age, life’s priorities dictate how I spend my time.”
He said hobbies, like calligraphy projects and model ship building have been replaced by devoting time to his family.
"When, I’m not helping my kids with homework or playing baseball in the front yard with my son, I like to practice the piano and read (usually historical works)," he said. "I also enjoy writing. Currently, I am putting the finishing touches on a book that I recently completed entitled, 'Character Profiles in Leadership.'
“When I first began teaching in 1969, I resolved to try it for a few years until something “better” came along. Now, 50 years later, I can honestly say that I have not found anything better than teaching. Lord willing, I hope to continue until my youngest child graduates in 10 more years. Perhaps, then I will finally hang up my lesson plans.”