TONTOGANY – Otsego Local Schools’ school resource officer has been named tops in the state.
    Brian Ruckstuhl, a deputy with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, was honored as the Larry R. Cox D.A.R.E.
    Officer of the Year Award by D.A.R.E. Ohio.
    Ruckstuhl was nominated by school district personnel.
    He will be starting his sixth year at Otsego this month and has been with the sheriff’s department for
    just over 30 years.
    “I knew he has the right personality,” Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said. “He interacts well with children and
    is very passionate about the D.A.R.E. program.”
    The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program was started in 1992 at the Wood County Sheriff’s Office with
    one officer and has expanded to three full-time and one part-time D.A.R.E. deputies.
    Ruckstuhl said he was interested in becoming a D.A.R.E. officer because of the youth.
    “I loved kids and I love the community. I’m basically trying to make a difference to the kids and be a
    mentor to them.”
    That mentorship includes following his direction to leading a productive life, he said.
    The job is everything he had hoped it would be.
    “That and more. It is a very, very rewarding job. A lot of work but very rewarding to see the outlook of
    kids and to bond with them.”
    Superintendent Adam Koch, in his letter of recommendation, said Ruckstuhl has “dedicated so much of his
    life to our students and entire community.
    “Brian is a student advocate,” Koch said. “He believes that all kids can succeed in life and he never
    gives up on kids.”
    “That is a very true statement,” Ruckstuhl said.
    Kids make mistakes, but when they do, he talks to them and challenges them to learn from those mistakes,
    he said.
    He teaches D.A.R.E. classes at the fifth and seventh grade but is in the classroom at all grades at some
    For fifth graders, it’s about choices and resistance strategies, “teaching them different ways they don’t
    have to give in to peer pressure.”
    At the lower grades, the lessons are more about responsibilities and the choices about drugs and alcohol.
    At the high school, he is a mentor and talks more about how students’ choices affect their future.
    “I’m building that professional relationship, that trust,” Ruckstuhl said.
    During the summer, he is on bike control, which he said gives him more of a way to interact with the
    kids. He attends a lot of baseball and softball games and visits all of the pools.
    Recently, he assisted school administrators in handing out ice cream sandwiches to children in the
    The Larry R. Cox D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year Award nominee must have a minimum of two semesters teaching
    the curriculum, be currently teaching D.A.R.E., and have a strong commitment to other activities
    involving D.A.R.E. and the community.
    Koch said when he learned of the award, he knew Ruckstuhl would be a good candidate.
    “I thought of Brian right away. He does more than just be an SRO. We all felt this was as easy choices
    for D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year,” Koch said.
    High school principal Kevin O’Shea, junior high principal Jon Rife and elementary principal Katrina
    Baughman echoed those sentiments.
    “He has high expectations and creates an incredibly engaging environment that excites kids and connects
    their experiences to real world events and also encourages them to treat each other with respect and
    kindness and to live a life free of drugs and violence,” O’Shea wrote in his letter of recommendation.

    Rife wrote that Ruckstuhl “offers his time not only to enforce the law, but also uses his talents to
    teach lessons in the classroom, mentor students and just be there for students to talk to.”
    According to Baughman, Ruckstuhl has made home visits, welfare checks and phone calls to make sure
    students are safe when school is not in session.
    Ruckstuhl thanked the staff and administration.
    “I could not do my job without the administration at Otsego,” he said.
    “He really cares about every student at Otsego, and he is definitely an asset in our community,” Koch