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Steve Ohlhaut

BA 1999, French Education
MA 2007, Xavier University, Educational Administration

Head of World Languages/French Teacher, West Lafayette High School, West Lafayette, IN

When we first start to measure success in life, many of us probably had parents and mentors who advised us to focus on ourselves, without worrying about what those around us were doing. But for Steve Ohlhaut, French teacher and chair of the World Language Department at West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School, observing others—his students—is one of the primary ways he can see if he’s doing a good job.

A winner of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce biennial Golden Apple Award for educational leaders, Ohlhaut worked to establish an exchange program with a French high school, giving his students the opportunity to converse locally with their French peers or to be bon vivants while practicing their language skills abroad.

“The ‘wow’ moments for me occur when students realize that they are capable of using the French language skills they have acquired in a real-life setting,” he notes. “The greatest joy I get is watching them interact with their partners in our exchange with the Lycée Amélie Zurcher in Alsace, France when they are here, or hearing from my colleagues in France that one of our students was able to participate fully in class preparations for the baccalauréat exam in French, on the first day of our visit. Every day, my students do something that reminds me what a great career I have.”

Purdue Influences

Professor Becky Brown’s linguistics course showed me what good, down-to-earth teaching looks like. Her classes are serious, intense, and purposeful, but she is approachable and warm. This is a style I try to emulate in my own teaching. Working in Purdue’s foreign language media center exposed me to the use of (new and old) technology in the classroom and helped me develop an interest in incorporating technology into my own classroom.

Purdue Memories

Walking under the Math Building after a late night of studying in January, so cold that my nostrils froze shut. Watching the first round of the 1996 men’s NCAA Tournament between No. 1 seed Purdue and Western Carolina, the No. 16 seed, with my then-girlfriend and current wife, now a Western Carolina graduate. (Purdue won by just 2 points.)

Purdue Now

The ongoing traditions of excellence at Purdue in academics and athletics. Having remained in the West Lafayette community, Purdue is a daily part of my life, as well as the lives of the students and parents with whom I work. Every day on my way to work, I drive past Ross–Ade Stadium, Mackey Arena, and Neil Armstrong Hall—constant reminders of what Purdue is. 

Greatest Achievement

Personally: hanging wallpaper with my wife and still keeping our marriage together. Professionally: Establishing a writing and travel exchange with a high school in France. This has opened up opportunities for students to make enduring connections that have given them new skills and confidence. Whether facilitating professional development for colleagues or learning for students, my success is measured by their success—one reason I love the teaching profession. 

Living Person I Admire

My local priest—Father Timothy Alkire—for a lifetime of selfless service to his parishioners. His example embodies the best of all those who dedicate themselves tirelessly to the good of others, whatever the cost.

Idea of Perfect Happiness

A misty, cool sunrise in the southern Indiana hills riding my Trek bicycle.

What I’m Reading

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (again) and Abigail Adams by Woody Holton

Profession I’d Like to Try

In a quest for a profession that would allow me to be outdoors as part of my job, I would like to try being a postal carrier with a route that would allow me to deliver on foot. Otherwise, if I thought I could be helpful as an elected official someday, I might give that a shot.