City of Shawnee

Outstanding Teacher Awards

Outstanding Teacher Awards
Posted on 01/12/2021

Mayor Michelle Distler asked for nominations for outstanding teachers who have made a difference to local kids no matter if they are teaching in person, hybrid or virtual. She asked and YOU answered! Here are all the Outstanding Teachers and their nominations so you can see how awesome they are! Thank you to ALL of our local educators!

Sarah Sides | Mill Valley High School
"I would like to nominate Sarah Sides for an Outstanding Teacher Award shout-out. She works at Mill Valley High School and teaches math. Although I am no longer a student there (I graduated in 2015), I follow her on social media and she has had the most positive outlook on teaching throughout the pandemic. It is truly admirable to see someone who finds joy in teaching even in the hardest of times. I can’t imagine how difficult it has been to be a teacher this year, but she has handled it all with grace. She definitely deserves this award!"

--Katie Garrison
Kalie Coker | Good Shepherd
"I’d love to see Mrs. Kalie Coker recognized! She teaches kindergarten at Good Shepherd. My son had her, and now my daughter does. She’s ALWAYS positive and upbeat, nurturing at some a special age. My kids were blessed to have her to begin their elementary years. She’s a mother to four children of her own, yet works tirelessly for others. My daughter comes home energized and full of enthusiasm for learning every single day."

--Christine White
Kelly Roberts | Broken Arrow Elementary

"I’ve been waiting eagerly for an opportunity to speak out about how wonderful a teacher Mrs. Roberts is!  She has been my son’s teacher for two years in a row now. Due to the pandemic she got switched from third grade to fourth grade remote...and she is doing a phenomenal job of keeping up with the changes. 

Socio-emotional awareness has always been high on her list and that is important now more than ever. She makes sure to check in with her class each morning and see if they ate breakfast and how they are doing. She drops off class work to student’s homes if they are unable to come get it. 

She uses verbiage that Gen Zers can relate to and knows how important milestones are. For instance:

  • “Send good vibes to Jayden.  She’s moving this week so this may be the last time we all get to see her!”
  • “You guys are trolling me in the chat!”
  • “We have a South-Asian and black woman as Vice President. You may not understand the historical significance but it is a BIG deal!  You guys can be President and can make a difference at any age!”

She also has the students come up with Daily Affirmations and Areas of Discipline so they write down what they plan to focus or improve on and what they are thankful for.  This self-reflection is a life-long skill they will build on throughout their lives!!

She challenges students to be more inclusive. She has a son with developmental disabilities and invites him to some of her teaching sessions to promote awareness, inclusion and understanding surrounding the IDD community and in general. As a caregiver for adults with IDD, and a mom of two bi-racial children, this touches my heart to the core!!!

Mrs. Roberts’ teaching style promotes independence among the fourth graders and sets them up for success despite this year of remote school chaos. For example, she’ll say, “If you come back at 10:15, and I’m not back from my meeting, start your concepts quiz and log on to Web Ex at 10:30.”  The last thing parents working from home need to see is a student staring at a blank screen and waiting for instruction. Mrs. Roberts has it down to a science!!

She encourages them to take breaks from screens during their downtime as well.  Heaven knows that’s the last thing they need after a heavy day of screen time. 

Broken Arrow has a treasure and we are so thankful to have gotten two years with her in a row. She has made this crisis so much more bearable for our student and for us parents."

--Theresa Singh

Shelley Arbaugh | Riverview Elementary
"I would like to recognize Shelley Arbaugh. She is a 2nd grade teacher at Riverview Elementary in the DeSoto School District.

Mrs. Arbaugh is doing a wonderful job as our optional remote teacher for this school year. And what a year it's been! She has shown incredible flexibility and grace while teaching her students remotely. She has taken this new challenge head on and our kids are doing amazing. Mrs. Arbaugh has given such great care and individual attention to each child. She is always available whenever we need her. Mrs. Arbaugh has done a remarkable job with the curriculum online and with the consistency of maintaining a schedule. She takes each technology challenge in stride and always has a back-up plan when things happen out of her control. She's teaching these kids resilience and leading by example on how to excel during this unprecedented year. She has high expectations of her students but is also able to seek out the specific needs of each student and address them. And she does this all over Zoom! She is amazing. She goes out of her way to make each child feel special and make this school year as "normal" as possible."

--Julie Murphy 
Kelly Roberts and Andrea Izard | Broken Arrow Elementary
"I would love for Kelly Roberts and Andrea Izard to be recognized as Outstanding Teachers!  They both teach 4th grade at Broken Arrow Elementary.  Mrs. Roberts is the remote teacher, and Mrs. Izard is the in-person teacher.  Both have done their best to help and teach our son as he started out the school year fully-remote and switched to fully in-person in January.   They have gone above and beyond to help him try to stay on task and transition to a new classroom mid-year."

--Susan Krob
Jon Copeland and Deb Steiner | Mill Valley High
"I nominate Jon Copeland and Deb Steiner both teachers at Mill Valley High School.

Mr. Copeland is the drama teacher and in this school year so impacted by COVID-19 he has tried to give the students, parents, and school some normalcy.  Mill Valley just finished putting on a musical Pirates of Penzance.  They had 4 wonderful performances, acting, singing, and dancing while wearing mask and maintaining social distancing.  Since each participant could only have 2 guest in the audience, Mr. Copeland setup the availability of a streaming event for family and friends that couldn't attend to watch the performances.  Furthermore, Mr. Copeland is working with the students to have Spring performance in May (a series of one act plays) so they can enjoy putting on  another production.  This is especially important to the seniors who are ending their high school experience with restrictions, reductions, and removals of those special moments most of us remember fondly from are own high school experience.

Similarly Deb Steiner, the band teacher, is trying to give her students some normalcy in this trying year.  She had the marching band perform at all the football games (including the state championship).  While they didn't take the field during half time they played a set of enjoyable, well played songs.  This was accomplished with students on a hybrid schedule so they were not all together until the actual games.  Ms. Steiner is also working with the students to record their performance for the band competition.  Normally these competitions are done live but since that is not allowed this year she is letting them still compete and enjoy performing together.  They are getting ready for a live in person concert next week allowing the band seniors to have a brief moment of normal high school life.

I applaud all the teachers, staff, and administration at Mill Valley (and schools everywhere) for continuing to educate our youth in circumstances none of them were trained for."

--Patti Cowen
Heather Mayfield | Trailridge Middle
"I'd like to nominate Heather Mayfield at Trailridge Middle School for the Outstanding Teacher Award.  

Ms. Mayfield volunteers as a female coach/leader for the Cross Country team at the middle school.  In 7th grade she made my daughter feel included and as part of a community.  She set up some activities for the middle school cross country girls as bonding opportunities.  She constantly pushed and motivated them.  In 8th grade she coached them to be role models and leaders for the new 7th graders.  She created a positive space that made my daughter feel empowered and included.  

With that in mind I couldn't have been more excited when she was in her 8th grade English class.  Her assignments are fun and draw from societal issues and real life things they can relate to.  My child became super motivated to do anything to help this teacher or any project she assigned.  She was confident and engaged.  The difference in how she motivated my child showed in every interaction.  She took a new 7th grader and helped create a space where she felt she belonged in Middle School.  I couldn't be more grateful."

--Leslie Freeman-Moreland  
Jennifer Wagler | Rhein Benninghoven Elementary
"I wanted to send in to recognize a teacher at Rhein Benninghoven, Mrs. Wagler.  She now currently teaches 5th grade. Previously kindergarten. My daughter Miley had her for kindergarten and also had her when she switched classes in 5th grade last year. 

Mrs. Wagler is very special to our family. (Fingers crossed my youngest gets her in years to come) Mrs. Wagler is a super kind smiling face. Makes the kiddos feel very important. Whether at school or in public she takes the time to acknowledge and talk to the kiddos. 

Mrs. Wagler last year took the time during remote (COVID) learning to email me to praise Miley and to let me know how hard she has worked. Which meant more to me then she’ll ever know. As school has not always came easy.

Miley always enjoyed switching classes last year to go see Mrs. Wagler. She just goes above and beyond. 

I feel super comfortable and safe going to Mrs. Wagler for advice. To handle a situation deeper than academics and she handles them or puts you in touch with the person to help. 

My daughters adore Wagler and her kind heart. We are so grateful that Benninghoven has her."

--Trisha Meharry 
Lindsey Sudac | Prairie Ridge Elementary
"We would love to give a shout to Lindsey Sudac, my son’s 3rd Grade teacher at Prairie Ridge Elementary! Mrs. Sudac has gone out of her way this year to help the kids adapt to this crazy year! On top of all things academic that she has taught our kids this year, she has also won my son’s heart with her “knock out” basketball skills at recess, or any other games they play and she jumps in on! She has truly goes above and beyond, and is always checking in on the kids outside of school! It takes a village, and we are so thankful she is a part of ours!"

--Missy McVicker and Dexter Dibble
Vicki Widman | Rhein Benninghoven Elementary (Two nominations)
"When I saw this opportunity I had to jump at the chance to recognize my son's 1st grade teacher. I think that this year isn't how anyone would have expected or chosen for it to go.  My son has had breathing issues his entire life.  When the pandemic started we knew right away that we would have to make the really difficult decision to keep him home and complete school through remote learning.  It was terrifying. There were so many unknowns.  Would he fall behind? Would we regret it? Would he be behind socially?

Mrs. Widman at Rhein Benninghoven Elementary School has been our saving grace. She goes above and beyond daily to make sure that the students in her class don't fall behind. She sends home math manipulatives for students to get hands on learning.  She does art projects with them.  Occasionally, they have lunch bunch to sit and talk with friends during lunch.  She gives sight word flash cards so students can practice at home.  She does lots of small group work on top of whole class lessons in order to make sure that her students are getting their needs met.  Even though they aren't in person they don't miss out on things because they are virtual.  She has made this experience positive and just adapts and fits their way of learning.  If you were to participate in Mrs. Widman's virtual classroom you would think that she has always taught this way her entire career.  She is flexible, kind and compassionate with all of her students.

We really can't thank her enough for loving our son and providing the level of education that he deserves.  Her dedication, effort and time that she spends I will never be able to show her enough gratitude and appreciation.

Please give a special shout out to Mrs. Widman.  She deserves it and so much more."

--Cliff and Liz Burton

"My nomination for the Outstanding Teacher Award is Vicki Widman.  She is a 1st grade teacher at Benninghoven Elementary school in Shawnee Mission school district.  My daughter struggled with liking school since she started Pre school.  Kindergarten wasn't the great.  But 1st grade with Mrs. Widman changed everything.  Not only does she love school now but she has excelled so much in school since her!  She struggled so much to read in kindergarten but now she can read so well!  Mrs. Widman has just been so amazing.  We love her and how sweet she is.  She's so good to the kids and helps with whatever they need.  She's amazing!"

--Tiffany Croom

Amy Frick | Ray Marsh Elementary
"My son’s teacher, Mrs. Frick, from Ray Marsh Elementary, has gone above and beyond to teach her class of remote 1st graders. She keeps them engaged throughout the day, is very organized, flexible, has the most patience of anyone that I know, and we can tell that she just loves her job. My son has thrived in her class. She is an excellent teacher!"

--Angela Hatcher
Andrea Izard | Broken Arrow Elementary
"I would like to nominate Andrea Izard at Broken Arrow. She teaches 4th Grade. Last year Andrea stepped in mid school year (after having been on maternity leave) to teach 3rd Grade at BA. This group can be somewhat challenging. After having many teachers and subs walk out on this class, she chose to stay with them for the rest of the school year. They rode out the pandemic teaching together, and then this school year Andrea made the choice to wrap around with these kids for 4th grade. She is always calm, and loves her students. My 4th grader says "Mrs. Izard is my favorite teacher because she is the one who wanted us." She is remarkable and goes above and beyond to give her students what they need."

--Lauren Van Wagoner
Melissa Hembrey | Riverview Elementary
"I would like to recognize Melissa Hembrey, 1st grade optional remote teacher from Riverview Elementary, as an outstanding teacher. I am so impressed by how she has adapted to such an unusual year of teaching. Mrs Hembrey teaches like she has been doing virtual school her whole career. It has been a joy to watch my son grow and learn from her instruction. She keeps the kids engaged and excited about learning new things. Even though they are not in person, she has still managed to make the class feel like a team. My son has been so excited to have her as a teacher and I am very thankful for her work and dedication to these first graders in Shawnee. Thank you City of Shawnee for the opportunity to recognize our amazing educators!"

--Emily Mattingly
Kasia Bulkley | Rhein Benninghoven Elementary
"No matter what kind of day it is, Mrs. Bulkley is kind and funny. She comes up with really awesome lessons and makes learning fun. She motivates us and encourages us to do our best."

--Grace Chalfie
Kristin Teahan | Trailridge Middle
"Miss Teahan teachers Science, which is my favorite subject, and she makes it fun. She always greets me at the door.  She is understanding, patient, kind, and friendly."

--Luke Chalfie
Amy Kirchner | St. Joseph Catholic School
"I'd like to nominate Amy Kirchner, a second grade teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Shawnee, for the outstanding teacher award. When I asked my daughter what she thought of Mrs. Kirchner as a teacher she said, "Mrs. Kirchner is just so amazing!"  I couldn't agree more! 

This year has brought so many obstacles and challenges for all teachers but Amy has taken all of them in stride.  She has shown empathy, love, and understanding to each of her students, which is no easy task with the additional precautions in place.  Her excitement for learning and her support of each individual student has made her a stand out this year.  She has found new ways to reward students and has offered fun activities to keep the kids engaged.  During a momentary period of remote learning for my daughter, Amy ensured she felt included, called on her to answer questions, and engaged her in the conversation occuring in the classroom despite my daughter's remote posture. Amy has gone above and beyond to make sure her students feel special and loved. 

As a parent, I have been particularly grateful for Amy and her focus on communication during a time when we can't be as present at school.  She is responsive to questions, proactive in communicating updates, and helps ease the concerns of parents in this unusual school year.  No question has been ignored and no request has been made to seem burdensome to Amy.  I know my daughter receives so much love and care during the school day when I can't be with her.  What a reassurance to me as a parent to know and witness this.  

What a great example Amy is to colleagues, parents, and, most importantly, her students.  I am so grateful to her and for all she has done for the kids at St. Joe!"

--Nicole Pick 
Christina Denk | St. Joseph Early Education Center
"I would also like to nominate Christina Denk, a preschool teacher at the St. Joseph Early Education Center in Shawnee, for the outstanding teacher award.  My youngest daughter has been in her class for the last 7 months and Christina has been absolutely wonderful.  I sometimes think she might have a secret superhero cape that she doesn't let the rest of us see. 

Christina is tasked with overseeing a room of almost preschoolers and assisting them with daily work, play, social skills, potty training, and loads of other things.  Despite the variety of tasks she assists with she makes everyday fun with a new art project, song, book, game, etc.  My daughter loves every minute of her time with Ms. Christina and she is always so excited to tell me what new adventure their class did that day. Christina's energy, positive attitude, and excitement are something we should all aspire to model each day and she does so in what seems like such an effortless manner.  Like I said before, I seriously think she might be a superhero.  

As if what she does for each child in her class isn't enough, she also continually goes above and beyond for parents.  She sends pictures and communicates updates or important reminders.  She makes it easy to ask questions and supports parents in the tough transitions with their kids (for example, potty training...every parent can empathize with that struggle :)).  

I can't express my gratitude enough for Ms. Christina and the love she has shown my daughter.  Knowing she has a teacher like Ms. Christina to give her comfort, make her laugh, and show her love when I can't be with her, gives me such peace and joy. Ms. Christina really is in a class of her own!"

--Nicole Pick