Education in Miami was celebrated with a Mexican fiesta Tuesday as the Miami Public School Enrichment Foundation held its annual banquet.

A highlight of the night's activities was the presentation of the 2007 outstanding alumnus, Captain Jeff Trussler with the Navy.

Dr. Wade Walls, who made the presentation, has been involved with the committee that selects the alumnus for several years.

“The outstanding alumnus shows many different roads to success, Walls said.

Walls sees Trussler as an excellent example of that success.

Trussler, throughout his Naval career, has spent more than six years at sea.

Not only was Walls impressed with the amount of time that Trussler spent on a submarine, but also with the amount of time Trussler has had to spend away from his family.

Trussler expressed his gratitude toward his former teachers. He applauded his teachers of math and science, which were his forte, as well as the teachers who tried to get him interested in English and other subjects.

“I don't get to bisect angles every day, but the things I was taught about communicating come in handy all the time, he said.

Trussler said it was a privilege to interact with the Miami students.

“I've discovered that teaching is no easy task, Trussler said. “I went home and laid down on the floor.

“It must be a challenge to keep the students interested every day. I had the advantage of bringing films with explosions with me.

Trussler follows a long line of award winners, including Steve Owens, Charles Banks Wilson, George Coleman, Charles A. Neal Jr., Carol Littleton, David Adams, Willie Osborn, Jana Lee Caldwell, Larry Smith, Vince Gilmore, Fern Holland, Mary Sue Price and last year's winners Robert D. Meyer and Thomas D. Whitwell. The latter made a significant donation of $100,000 during the 2006 awards banquet.

This year's event included a video presetation on an upcoming school bond issue set to go before voters in November.

Additionally, teacher Chrisann Lamb of Wilson Elementary School won a whistling competition held at the banquet. She received a $600 travel voucher, financed by the Peoria Tribe.

After having met its goal of accumulating $1,000,000 at the 2006 banquet, the foundation raised $23,000 this year.

Nancy Gee donated $5,000 to the Robert S. Gee Scholarship Fund.

The Miami Rotary Club and the Steve Owens Foundation each donated $1,000 to the Enrichment Foundation at the banquet.

More than $30,000 in grants were bestowed.

Each school received a grant totaling more than $13,000.

More than 40 teachers at the various schools received grants also totaling more than $13,000.

A new grant, the Redwood Premium, was given for the first time at Tuesday's banquet.The grant is is a $1,500 to $3,000 award and available to any teacher.

“It makes funds available for projects that are not always possible through a traditional grant, said Dr. Mark Folks, vice chairman of the foundation and emcee of the banquet. “This year we had 20 applicants.

Trussler selected the winning grant, which went to Debbie Hogan, physical education teacher at Nichols Elementary School.

The grant will be used for playground equipment.