Two McPherson teachers recently received awards from the state for their exemplary first year in the classroom.
Katherine Hughes at McPherson Middle School and Jennifer Love at Roosevelt Elementary School were among 16 educators in Kansas to receive the 2013 Kansas Cable Telecommunications Horizon Award. The award recognizes teachers who have successfully completed their first year of teaching and have performed in such a way as to distinguish themselves as outstanding.
Since the program's beginnings in 2002, this is the first time two McPherson teachers have received the award in the same year. Five from the district have been recognized in the last 10 years.
"Both ladies are highly regarded by their peers already," Angie McDonald, USD 418 director of instruction, said. "They are just both so deserving."
Each district in Kansas is allowed to nominate one elementary and one secondary teacher. Four in each category are chosen from each of the four regions.
McDonald said an outside observer would never have known Hughes was a first-year teacher.
"She connects with kids," she said. "She figures out how to make the curriculum relevant and the kids want to please her."
In order to receive the Horizon Award, teachers need to collect and submit recommendations like these from the district.
"Every time I got one, I would get tears in my eyes," she said. "To me, that was probably the highlight point of this process so far. Just to know that people appreciate me and see that I'm trying to do some good things."
In addition to teaching language arts, Hughes desired to understand the age group and be available for support.
"Getting to know students was really the best part of the year," she said. "I do feel like I made some connections to a few kids that really needed someone that year."
This is Hughes' second career. She first worked 10 years in advertising, then did freelance work while she stayed at home with her children. Later she received her teaching license after working with preschool children.
This second go-around is one she enjoys.
"I don't think that there's a teacher out there that would say surviving their first year is an accomplishment," she said.
What's more, she said, is the desire to come back.
"That's a good indicator that I'm in the right place," she said. "The middle school is a perfect place for me."
Love, a teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School, said she was overwhelmed with joy when she was informed about her award.
Last year, she was teaching a combined class of second- and third-grade students.
"I was stepping into something I'd never seen or tried or heard of before," she said. "It was terrifying. At times, I was completely overwhelmed."
Page 2 of 2 - But Love said it was the support of her building and district that allowed her to have a smoother first year than she anticipated.
Now she teaches only third grade.
"When you get to see you're making a difference ... It may take forever, but when that light bulb comes on — and I swear, you can see it — they'll just spark, and their eyes get big and they know it," she said.
Love said she is always pushing her students and herself to learn more. Personally, she plans to work toward her master's degree while she continues to teach.
"I love it," she said of her work. "I'm ready to come in on Monday morning. I can't imagine doing anything else."
The Kansas Cable Telecommunications Horizon Awards are sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education and the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association.
Awardees will be recognized at a special luncheon during the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network State Education Conference on Feb. 22.
The honor will also allow them to join the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network. This will allow them to network with other outstanding educators from across the state and participate in a number of professional development programs throughout the year.
"These new educators have taken on the challenge of helping all of our students learn to their fullest potential, and I am heartened by the quality of individuals we bring to our classrooms each year," Diane DeBacker, Kansas commissioner of education, said in a press release. "I commend each of the award recipients for their commitment to making a difference in the lives of their students."
Contact Jenae Pauls at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel