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Warren Central veteran teacher and coach innovates during the pandemic

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — April’s Golden Apple winner comes from MSD Warren Township with 45 years of teaching experience.

Warren Central High School’s principal nominated Gary Roberts, calling him a “wonderful gentleman” who has adapted to meet the needs of students.

Students used more humorous language to describe him, calling him “naturally funny,” “pretty cool” and “sarcastic.”

“Mr. Roberts likes to point out, like every class period, that he’s like a day away from dying because he’s so old,” said Vianney Gonzalez, a junior in Mr. Roberts’ Algebra 2 class.

“One time he made a video for us on how to make chicken with Cheez-Its,” laughed Julien Patton, a sophomore. “It was very interesting.”  

Patton referenced the “Cooking with the Coach,” one of several videos Mr. Roberts released during the height of at-home learning during the pandemic.

“Mr. Roberts had his own page:  Monday was Coking with the Coach, Tuesday was bedtime stories, Wednesdays is a workout video and on Fridays get together and eat lunch over Zoom,” said Gonzalez.

He meets the students on their level, adding pop culture commentary to the bedtime story and actually completing the reps in the workout videp.

“He was doing a plank, pushups and situps,” said Jada Suddarth, a junior. “It was so funny to see him struggling,”

But to Suddarth, Gary Roberts isnt’ Mr. Roberts the math teacher, he’s Coach Roberts for the girls’ lacrosse team at Warren Central High School.

“One of our sayings for lacrosse is ‘play hard and don’t suck,’ and that came from coach himself,” laughed Suddarth.  

In fact, Coach Roberts is credited with creating the girls’ lacrosse program.

“He also was like, Mr. Blythe, do you want to help me coach girls lacrosse?” said Ryan Blythe, a fellow math teacher at Warren Central, ” And I said I know nothing and his response was: ‘I don’t either.”‘

Principal Rich Shepler says Roberts saw a need for the program, looked up how to coach the game and gave it a shot.

Blythe adds that Roberts has coached something like 50 teams in Warren Township, including basketball, football, track and boys and girls soccer, which happen in the same season.

Roberts is also in the Indiana Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame, and won the Indiana Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year.

His Golden Apple surprise came against a backdrop of brightly painted signs, eager teachers, his own family members and his second period math class.

The principal called Mr. Roberts into his office for “a discussion,” and then walked him down to the media center for the surprise.

Sponsor Bailey and Wood awarded him a golden trophy and $500, our Golden Apple team played his special nomination video, and two students presented him a box of Cheez-Its.

“This is actually the best part of the whole thing,” said Roberts.

You can watch the full nomination video below.

“I only come here because all of you are here,” Roberts said after the surprise.

He laughed when we said other teachers may take notes from him: “It works for me because I’m me. I don’t know if it would work for others. Everybody has to find their path but i think we can’t be discouraged by things we can’t control.”

Like many of our Golden Apple winners, Mr. Roberts said “as long we love our kids,” that’s the key.

Visit our Golden Apple Award homepage to watch previous surprises. To nominate a teacher, visit our Golden Apple nomination page.