My first introduction to Mike Strickler was when my son, Jay, was lucky to have him in 7th grade Art at Southmont. I think it was Mike's first full year of teaching, and I was amazed when Jay brought home a beautifully done, large drawing of an old barn. Immediately we proudly put it in a rustic frame. It resides in a place of honor in Jay's living room today. Having taught at South for a few years, Mike went to the North school system and taught health, P.E. and art throughout the next couple of decades, totaling 34 years as an educator.

One of the courses he teaches is fiber arts. I was fascinated as he told me about using textiles of all sorts to make various art figures (a dream catcher for instance, and he gives a history of the concept of one). Throughout time, he has also taught 2-D art, ceramics, drawing and painting, plus water colors which he truly loves.

North Montgomery junior Maverick Bacon noted that, "Mr. Strickler is a great teacher with lots of experience. I always looked forward to having him in class and feel thankful for the insight he provides us!"

A Montgomery County boy, Mike graduated from North in 1973. While there, he enjoyed art classes, along with being active in baseball, basketball and football. During his senior year, he had a rough time as he lost his father to cancer. He contributes some of his healing to two men, Emerson Mutterspaugh and Gren Lefebvre. In fact, Gren was the big reason Mike left South to teach in the North system. Definitely, Gren is a man to admire, as I feel Mike is, too.

Mike and wife Celeste Quimby were high school sweeties. Both went to Indiana State and got masters from DePauw. He gives his in-laws credit for encouraging him to continue his education. It is very obvious he adores and appreciates Randy and Bev Quimby. He has great love for the rest of his family, as well. His brother lives in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. and a favorite place to vacation is with him. Mike also has three sisters, Ruth Davis whose husband Ray is passed; Norma Rothrock and Janet Valliere, whose deceased husband, Sam graduated with my husband Jim. Jim greatly admired Sam.

Travelling is one of Mike's hobbies, and he especially enjoys going to Yellowstone to take pictures (a beloved hobby) to eventually paint. Golfing and fishing have also produced trips, including going to Ely, Minn. and Lake Erie with his good friend Pete Miller to fish, and many places down south to golf with a big batch of buds. Mike enjoys cards with the family, too. Pitch is their favorite card game which I'd never heard of, but he explained it was similar to euchre. Outdoor games, such as volleyball and board games are other items Mike enjoys with his relatives.

Celeste and Mike have three wonderful daughters, Tara (husband Ryan) works at Tipmont REMC. Ryan works at Lithonia and is the assistant minister at Crossroads Nazarene Church. Audra is a stay-at-home mom, while her husband Cesar is a detective in Fishers. Diedra works at Aeropostale and is taking classes at Ivy Tech. All three of the girls are NMHS graduates. The Stricklers also are wild about their three grandsons, Brasen, Judaen and Ayden and are expecting their first granddaughter in December. Although Mike and Celeste are very pleased with all the daughters and son-in-laws, Mike is particularly proud of Tara and Ryan who have two sons with diabetes. Having diabetes myself, I know the hours necessary in care providing. In fact, Tara is up at 2 a.m. every morning to check blood sugars and take care of her boys. Mike's eyes shined with a tear or two, I'm sure, when he was telling me about Brasen and Judaen. God bless you all, Mike!

Mike felt he got his artistic abilities from his dad who had made Mike a name design while Mike was in junior high school. Mike was absolutely fascinated with it and decided he'd like to center a career around art. That he has!

Now, when I asked Mike if he remembered anything funny that had ever happened in his class, he didn't hesitate. He told me this story. No names to protect the innocent, but at South, one boy didn't come to school for a couple of days. When Mike asked his students where the boy was, they all said, "Oh, Mr. Strickler, he's in big trouble for doing graffiti." One boy went on to explain, "Why, they're gonna' prostitute him on Monday!" I laughed really hard then and I'm still giggling at that innocent faux pas.

Truly, Mike is an extremely talented man and one expertise is coaching. He coached baseball at North Montgomery for 20 years, even having one team that was state runner-up in 2000. One of Mike's ball players, Brandon Dale, told me that, "Mr. Strickler in one word is genuine." He would do anything for anyone who needed it and he's one of the best people Brandon knows. Genuine is honest, actual, real and with great character. Definitely, most definitely, that is Mike Strickler. Thanks buddy for letting me share your story this week in Around The County!