A Life of Excellence Guided by the Golden Rule

A Life of Excellence Guided by the Golden Rule

Shane Limberg, Staff Reporter

Athlete. Educator. Counselor. Coach.  In each of these roles, Dr. Aaron Striegel H’16 has exemplified excellence.  His Hall of Fame honor, bestowed by Floyd Central High School, sums up nicely Dr. Striegel’s incredible efforts in “education and service to mankind.” Dr. Striegel shared comments about his background and his reasons for dedicating his life to helping others.

Q: How long have you taught and where?

A: I have been an educator for 33 years, the last 19 years as the Advanced Program counselor and teacher at Trinity.  I was a college professor at Sullivan University, teaching Family Systems, Sociology and Religion courses. I also have been a school counselor at Louisville Collegiate and Christian Academy of Louisville and worked as a teacher in public schools in Anderson County, Ky., and Corydon, Ind.

Q: What made you want to become a teacher? 

Trinity counselor and teacher Dr. Aaron Striegel

A: I was always an avid reader growing up in Indiana. I can remember learning how to read before I ever entered grade school. As a preschooler, my mother took me to the library in New Albany, Ind., and I was fascinated with books on history. As a child, I read the whole series on U.S. Presidents and outdoorsmen such as Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and Chief Joseph, of the Nez Perce Tribe. As a student, I excelled in school and enjoyed the challenge of learning new information, graduating seventh in my class at Floyd Central High School in Floyds Knobs, Ind. I wanted to transfer my passion for learning to others, so teaching became a natural avenue.

Q: What are some life lessons you teach your students?

A: I teach my students the most important aspect of life is having a relationship with God, family and friends. Relationships in all of these areas creates peace and contentment. If we love God, our family and our friends, then we live out the greatest commandment of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39: “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Q: What makes Trinity a special place?

To me, Senior Retreat fulfills the mission of the school of forming men of faith and character. It is the best thing we do here!”

A: To me, what sets Trinity apart from other schools is the willingness of the school to acknowledge our blessings and connection with God in all we do. This acknowledgement helps to create a bond of family, love and acceptance.  Whenever I am out in public wearing my Trinity gear, I am asked, “Do you work at Trinity? I hear it is an awesome school.” My reply: “ I do work for Trinity, and Trinity is the best school because of the people who work there, attend there and support our mission. Trinity is like a second family to me!”

Q: Who have been your most influential mentors?

A: As a teenager, my most influential mentor was my high school basketball and track coach at Floyd Central, Mr. Joe Hinton. He was a tough disciplinarian, but he also was fair, and his expectation was one of excellence both in the classroom and in the athletic arena. I never wanted to disappoint my coach, so I always gave my best effort in my academics and in my athletic pursuits.  Mr. Hinton was elected to both the Indiana basketball Hall of Fame and the track Hall of Fame. I was able to model Coach Hinton’s life lessons, and in 2012, I was selected to Floyd Central’s High School Hall of Fame for my accomplishments in high school as well as life after high school.

I have two men at Trinity that I consider to be great mentors. Mike Magre ’83, one of my counseling colleagues, has taught me the value of humility. He does not brag about his accomplishments, but Mike is an intelligent and thoughtful man and someone I highly respect. If I have a tough counseling case, I will consult with Mike about the best practice going forward. He does the same thing with me. We both share a love for reading the Bible, sports and family. We talk and laugh every day and most of our conversations center on these topics. When I came to Trinity nearly 20 years ago, Mike was the youngest counselor, and I was the second youngest. Now, we are the elder statesmen of the department!

Another huge influence on my life at Trinity has been Mr. Frank Ward, H’01. We worked closely together for many years in the Advanced Program. Mr. Ward was the Advanced Program Director, and I served as the Advanced Program counselor. Mr. Ward is an excellent teacher, was a superb Director for the Advanced Program, and I consider him a close, personal friend. Frank taught me the history of Trinity, and we both share a passion for theater, good books and movies. I will miss him as he is retiring this year, but his love of learning, teaching and friendship is something I will always cherish about him.

Q: What have you learned from coping with the pandemic?

A: When the pandemic hit, I started doing some research about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and discovered that the best practice from 1918 and today was to follow safety protocols such as wearing a mask, washing your hands and taking Vitamin C and D to protect your immune system. Actually, I have been the healthiest I have ever been during the pandemic. I think wearing a mask around my students and colleagues has prevented me from getting colds and bronchial infections, something I usually get every school year. I also spent more time working out.

I walk five to six miles a day, lift weights and do stomach exercises. I intentionally lost 15 pounds during the pandemic, but gained strength. At 60 years old, I bench pressed 300 pounds to show my students that goals can be set no matter the life situation. I do not look at what I cannot do during the pandemic, such as going to the movies, fall festivals and concerts. Instead, I view the pandemic as a challenge to improve in areas that need more attention in my life. I have spent more quality time with my wife, Merry. I also read two chapters from the Bible each day and have learned to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life.

Q: In what ways has Trinity changed over the years you’ve been here?

A: Two things come to mind. The campus aesthetics have changed for the better. Dr. Rob Mullen ‘77, our school President, and the Trinity School Board have done a beautiful job of improving our facilities. Our campus is gorgeous both on the outside and inside, with state-of-the-art facilities for education and athletics. Another major change at Trinity — the age of the Trinity faculty seems to get younger each year. I am now colleagues with many of the teachers that I either taught or counseled during their time as Trinity students. Wesley Thomas ’04, Mitch Greenwell ’05, Jason Rand ’05, Bret Saxton ’05, Brian Bowles ’06, Ben Sobczyk ’06, Conor Carroll ’09 and Tyler Harris ’14 are all former students of mine.  I have children older than a lot of the teachers here, so I am definitely feeling my age! lol

Q: You have had many accomplishments during your career, including coaching a state championship track team. In what accomplishments do you take the most pride?

A: When I look back over the course of my life, I realize how much God has blessed me. I grew up extremely poor. I can remember as a child not having enough food to eat, missing meals or having to survive on one piece of bologna for my dinner. I only had two pair of pants and two shirts to wear for the entire school year, and students would mock me because of my clothes. This ill treatment by others created a drive within me to excel in whatever I did, whether in academics or athletics. I have always believed in hard work and doing the right thing on a daily basis. One of my favorite quotes is from former U.S. Defense Secretary Colin Powell: “ A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”  I never dreamed that I would appear in national publications such as Runners World and Sports Illustrated for my athletic accomplishments. I was humbled to be selected to my high school Hall of Fame for both my academic, community and athletic accomplishments. I have been blessed to have won individual and team state championships. Through hard work and dedication, I earned multiple college degrees. God has been so good to me; without His help and guidance I do not know where I would be.

Two accomplishments stand out for me. When I came to Trinity in 2002, I became the first dedicated school counselor for students in the Advanced Program. During the first semester, I meet three times a week  with the Advanced teachers to discuss students that need my help with academic or personal concerns. I meet with Sophomore teachers on Tuesday, Freshman teachers on Wednesday, and Junior/Senior Teachers on Thursday. We meet bi-weekly during the second semester.

The students in the Advanced program deal with high expectations which can create stress, perfectionism, and a lack of balance in their lives. I am the voice of calm and reason for them, helping them with organizational skills, relaxation techniques or lending a listening ear. My greatest accomplishment at Trinity is helping students overcome a problem, giving them the tools to succeed and then seeing these one time out-of-sync teenagers blossom into mature, successful young men.  My greatest accomplishment as a man has been raising my own children to become successful in their chosen career path and teaching them to love God and treat others with dignity and respect.

Q: What are some of your favorite teaching memories?

A: I tell my students each year that I am going to learn from them, and hopefully they will learn from me during our time together in class. Halfway through the semester, I take a class period and tell each student individually what they have added to the class and what personal attributes I admire about them. When I am finished, every student is filled with the confidence that they have special gifts that make a difference in the classroom and in the lives of others. Spontaneously, the students then ask if they can tell me what they like about the class or what they like about me as a teacher. What comes out of this communication exchange is a strong attachment that forges a sense of community and creates special memories.

Q: You have also served in many different roles outside of counseling and teaching, from House director to retreat leader. What job outside of the classroom do you enjoy the most and why?

A: During my time at Trinity, I have served as House Director for both Aquinas and Toussaint houses. I also served on the Faculty Senate for seven years, including as Senate President in 2017. Furthermore, I was Counseling Department chair for six years, helping to develop the evaluation system for the counselors. For the last three years, I served as co-chair for the Health & PE Department.  However, the one thing I enjoy most is working Senior Retreat.

To me, Senior Retreat fulfills the mission of the school of forming men of faith and character. It is the best thing we do here! Mary Emrich H’09 and Chris Luken, our Campus Ministers, do a fantastic job of putting our retreat plan in action. The Senior Retreat encounter is something that many students say is the zenith of their Trinity career. I am glad that I can have a small part in assisting our students in this life-changing experience.