Award-winning science teacher receives 2024 Young Alumni Award

Although their Commencement is two days away, a group of joyous Class of ’24 graduates-to-be enjoyed their first official alumni event Thursday night – the annual Beyond the Berg celebration, hosted by the Office of Alumni Engagement.

The students enjoyed food and drink and entered a raffle for more than 30 great prizes donated by members of the Alumni Council, the Office of Alumni Engagement and HYPE Career Ready®.

While the class reveled in the antics of emcee Ashley Helmstetter and President Rob Huntington in his role as Vanna White, the highlight of the evening was the presentation of the 2024 Young Alumni Achievement Award. This year’s recipient is award-winning science educator Ashlie (Burkhart) Gowitzka 

Ashlie teaches Honors Biology, Anatomy & Physiology and Forensic Science for Perkins Local Schools in Sandusky. She also teaches College Credit Plus courses to high-schoolers and served as the school’s National Honor Society advisor. But one of her most impactful roles has been as the school’s BioClub advisor. Perkins’ BioClub has won numerous awards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ohio State’s Stone Lab and the Ohio Sea Grant Program. The club also assisted with the ecological restoration efforts at the NASA Neil Armstrong Test Facility.

In 2019, Ashlie was named the Ohio Biology Teacher of the Year by the National Association of Biology Teachers.

In her spare time, Ashlie also serves as a 4-H advisor, youth soccer coach, Sunday school teacher and community volunteer. She’s also a wife and mom of two active sons.

All of this is to say that Ashlie has found and continues to nurture her passions, which took root while she was a student at Heidelberg.

“I am a person who has been deeply shaped by my experiences at Heidelberg,” she told the students. “It has had a profound impact on my own journey and career.”

To this day, Ashlie values the lessons she learned while at Heidelberg: the importance of lifelong learning and a strong sense of community.

As a commuter, her ’Berg experience wasn’t typical. But she connected with her women’s soccer teammates, with other commuter students, through conversations in Rock Creek Café and in the many hours spent with classmates in Gillmor Science Hall. “No matter where I was, I always felt a sense of belonging and Heidelberg really fostered that,” she said.

Ashlie expressed her gratitude for the tools and skills “necessary to inspire the next generation” – skills such as empathy, compassion and service to others, and her commitment to not allow herself to become stagnant in her career or life.

“Eighteen years ago, I entered the ranks of Heidelberg alumni, and because of that, I’ve found success in many facets of life. … Find that same passion,” she encouraged the students. “Keep learning from those around you, no matter their age. You’ll be surprised what you can learn from others.

“I truly love going to work every day … well, most days. That’s led me to continue learning every day.”

As they become part of the Heidelberg legacy of excellence and integrity, Ashlie’s parting wish for the grads-to-be is to “never lose sight of the power you have to make a difference in the lives of others.”

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