Mrs. Aerni: Pursuing her Passion

Stephanie Aerni is one of many who came to Miami in search of a good education, and stayed in Oxford for a career.

Meet your neighborhood American History teacher whose fly-by-the-wheel personality and love of the interstate highway system check popular with many of her students. And runners.

It all began in Coshocton, Ohio, an average town of about 12,000 nestled on the banks of the Muskingum River. It was there where Aerni developed her love of history as a high schooler. “I really liked Science but I was pretty bad at it,” she said. “French and Human Behavior were also good, but History was definitely my favorite.”

In High School, Aerni was a volleyball player and avid track runner. She only played volleyball for two years, but ran track all four.  “As an underclassmen my feature events were the mile and 2 mile; but when I got older I didn’t like the distance so it changed to things like the 400 and the 800.”

Growing up, her favorite sport was track because of the team atmosphere. “Track is different because of the relationships you build,” she said. “The athletes have a chance to build really supportive and connected relationships with their coaches, and to see kids encourage each other to do better is so cool.”

And that’s why she wanted to continue to stay involved at Talawanda.

When Aerni first came, there were two assistant track coach openings. “Mrs. Ruther and I actually coached together that first year,” she was quick to say. “It was a lot of fun.”

Since then, Aerni has coached on and off. She took a few years when she got married, went back, stopped when she had her two kids, and returned for the third time as an assistant last season working with the sprinters. “I’m back at it officially,” she said.

But this year a new opportunity arose for Aerni — another line to add to her coaching resume. She’s in her first season as an assistant cross country coach this fall. And it’s different.

“In track I worked a lot with sprinters. This is the opposite of sprinting. There’s no reps or workouts. The kids just go out and run and we trust that they’re doing it because we can’t see them.”

It’s been a great opportunity for Aerni to work with longtime track and cross country head  coach Paul Stiver. “He’s so organized. There’s a rhyme or reason to everything he does. The kids really buy in, and he respects and wants the best for them,” she said. “A lot of coaches will only pay attention to their best athlete, but he tries to make everyone better. His dedication and energy are really valuable.”

Aerni admitted the aspiration to get better and the self-motivated atmosphere is something she appreciates too. “It’s fueled by individual motivation. The kids have it within them to get better, and they don’t cut corners. It comes from inside.”

Junior cross country runner Mary Kate Huddleston has been running since middle school. “I think this is the best coaching staff we’ve ever had,” she said. “[Aerni] is thoughtful and caring. She really brings a sense of unity to the team and she makes us care about each other. It’s really fun to spend time with her.”

Added freshman runner Logan Murray: “She pushes you to do her best and the number one concern is if everyone is doing ok. She’s so sympathetic and caring.”

Huddleston also had Aerni as a teacher last year. “She’s literally awesome. Last year she went out of her way to help us prepare for our APUSH exam and to make sure everything was good in our lives.”

Growing up, Aerni didn’t have any Oxford connections, but the choice for attending Miami came pretty easy.

“My parents said if I go to college in Ohio they would pay for it. Miami was the best choice because it was definitely the best degree I could get for what I wanted to do.” Which was, needless to say, history education.

While there, she had the opportunity to student teach at THS with Mr. Caudill. It was an opportunity to get her foot in the door at the place where she would eventually work.  THS was also the place she met English teacher Matt Aerni.

“One day I was in the copy room [during student teaching] and I saw a guy walk in. He was wearing a bright green shirt and I thought he was cute,” she said of Mr. Aerni.

And the rest is history.

At the end of her student teaching term, a job opened at THS, even before Aerni received her degree.  And she applied. The Board of Education approved Aerni to be a history teacher on her 21st birthday.

“I wanted the job here because the people were special. There were so many friendships I made in this tight-knit district while student teaching, and I love this town,” she said.

Miss Sweet eventually started dating Mr. Aerni during her second year at Talawanda. Three years later, they were married.

Mrs. Aerni just got her principal’s license after taking graduate classes and receiving her masters from Miami. But for now, she’s perfectly content teaching history and coaching the sport she loves.

“I can’t picture a future where I walk into my job and don’t teach history,” she said. “But maybe someday when my kids get older and I want a change, then I’ll pursue being a principal.”

And if that ever happens, hopefully the adjustment will be just as smooth as the one from sprinters to milers.

xcCoach Aerni and members of her team take a selfie.  Courtesy of MK Huddleston.