As you’ve seen on the BioRx blog, Author Shannon Ralph is 2015’s Kansas Teacher of the Year. She’s spending part of her semester traveling and speaking on behalf of Kansas teachers. Keep up with her KTOY adventures here on the blog and on her Twitter page.
I have spent the past week in eastern Kansas, enjoying every minute. Tuesday the KTOY team was on the campus of Pittsburg State University. I have never been there before, and I have to say, I was impressed. Pitt State has a beautiful campus, and pre-service teachers there warmly received our message. As we took a brief tour of campus, PSU Gorilla pride was evident. I always think it says something when a professor is proud of what is happening at the university, as our host professor was.
Before we left we were able to meet the Dean of Education, Dr. Howard Smith. He was excited we were on campus and spoke with us briefly about how they recognize their graduating education students – their education students receive a special medal they wear during graduation and are given a beautiful framed document titled “The Teacher’s Oath.” Very meaningful. He even gave each of us a cool Pitt State Education jacket… love it!
We then moved on to Paola and visited a couple of education students from Fort Scott Community College. This was rather informal, but the students asked great questions and we had a very nice time there. Abby Hedrick (2015 KTOY finalist) teaches some math courses there, so it was fun to meet some of her colleagues and see her stomping grounds.
Yesterday we spent all day visiting the Paola School District. We visited both elementary schools, the middle school and the high school. The day was amazing. While we were at Jamie McDaniel’s (also a 2015 KTOY finalist) elementary school we roller-skated with students, were served a delicious breakfast, learned about some of the leadership programs the students are involved with, and visited several classrooms. Jamie’s class had a gift for each of us, including papers written by her students about what makes a great teacher. Heartwarming.
Paola High School was recently renovating and has a welcoming feel. The principal introduced us to their top notch arts teachers and FFA instructor. I really liked that the principal said he was working hard to develop a culture of educating the whole person. Great things are happening there.
Abby’s middle school knocked our socks off with an amazing lunch prepared and served by a class of SPED students. During lunch, we chatted with some middle school students about the leadership program in which they are involved. I imagine it would be pretty scary for a middle school student to stand in front of a team of Teachers of the Year, but they did an amazing job and answered questions honestly and quite professionally.
As a science teacher I especially loved visiting their STEM lab. Students were involved in lots of different topics at various pods. We even had little apples designed and 3-D printed by two of the students. They talked with us about how they did this, and it was SO heartwarming to see their pride in their work!
Our day culminated in a visit to Lakemary Center, a place where children with intellectual or developmental disabilities learn and heal. It was VERY impressive. We toured their facility and visited with both their principal and vice-principal. Both ladies are passionate about what they do, and the services they provide are nothing short of amazing.
Paola School District ended our day at a soda fountain with a delicious hand-made shake. (Ending the day with chocolate is never a bad thing!) I left Paola feeling very appreciated, and feeling like education is in pretty good hands there.
On a political note: I did drive to Topeka to sit in on the school finance bill session when the House voted. I am also interested in the proposed bill to replace the Kansas Teacher of the Year program with a Legislative Teaching Excellence Award. This is HB 2378 if you would like to take a look at it. Feel free to send comments my way. It is important to pay attention to what is happening in Topeka this year as there seem to be a lot of bills specific to education – ultimately which will impact our districts and our classrooms.
Until my next trek… Rock on!