Retired Tallmadge High School drama teacher Frank Chaff IV will take center stage on Saturday.
The district plans to name the high school auditorium stage after Chaff at 6:45 p.m. before students perform Death of a Salesman, directed by David Obney.
“Frank Chaff devoted 43 years to the students of Tallmadge High School,” said Superintendent Jeff Ferguson. “He produced more than a hundred musicals and plays always getting large casts of students from all walks of our high school.”
During his 43 years with the district, Chaff wore many hats from teacher to director to adviser to mentor. He taught government, psychology and drama and directed countless plays and musicals for the school and community.
“He could take the shyest introvert and convince them that there was a role for them in his performances while at the same time develop the most serious of actors’ talents,” Ferguson said.
As the adviser for the student senate, Chaff and his students raised $50,000 and organized blood drives.
“One of Frank’s greatest talents was to promote the importance of giving back through service. He was responsible for food drives, blood drives, and the Christmas family program that still is going strong today,” Ferguson said.
Principal Rebecca DeCapua said Chaff has had a lasting impact on the students and faculty.
“Frank Chaff for many years impacted the lives of students and faculty,” DeCapua said. “His talents and influence were far reaching. This is a well-deserved recognition.”
One of Chaff’s former students, Stephen Roth, organized a petition to present to the board of education to get his teacher some recognition.
“I knew that my story was only one of over 40 years of stories from students like myself, whose lives were changed by Chaff, “ Roth said. “I felt like such an influential force in the lives of many Tallmadge students and alumni deserved recognition.”
Roth said that Chaff has served as a mentor to him in so many different capacities: A teacher with valuable lessons in the classroom and for success in life; an adviser who always pushed for more as a sounding board for ideas and for making difficult decisions and, lastly, as a friend who was there to support his family through difficult times.
Chaff said it is nice to know that his students felt comfortable enough to come to him with their problems.
“It made me feel good that they felt confident to come and talk to me,” he said. “Often I think they came to me because I was not judgmental and an outsider. I told them to follow their dreams and to do what was right.”
Erynn Truex, another former student, is working toward her bachelor’s degree in geology at Bowling Green.
“The impact Mr. Chaff has left on my life is profound,” she said. “He coaxed me to be a leader when most teenagers would shy into the crowd, and he encouraged me to let my true colors shine through when popular opinion would have dictated otherwise.”
Truex said she was always treated as a professional and as an equal when working on student senate or productions.
“I metamorphosed from a teenager into an adult, and I learned more from these experiences than in any classroom in high school or college,” Truex said.
She plans to graduate from Bowling Green in December and then attend graduate school.
Chaff also was mentored in his teaching career. He points to former choir teacher for Tallmadge High School, Les Bennett, as an example. Bennett died on Sunday.
“I was really fortunate to be mentored by Les Bennett,” Chaff said. “He was both a teacher and a good friend. He is loved and respected by hundreds of students that he worked with over the years. He will be sorely missed.”
Abigail Chaff said she has a tendency to roll her eyes every time a former student of her father comes up to tell her how much her father has changed their life.
“It just happens so much that I almost get tired of hearing it, but it is just a reminder that he is such a huge inspiration to students.”
Abigail Chaff said she’s proud that her father is getting this recognition.
“I think this has been a long time coming,” she said. “He has done so much for the students and for the community so this is the least they could do to honor his legacy.”
Frank Chaff said he is surprised by the attention.
“I just did what I love to do. It makes me feel like [I had] a hand in part of polishing the diamond,” he said. “They had the desire and the drive, they just needed someone to help them along the way.”