The Kansas Teacher of the Year program nominated two teachers from McPherson County for its Region 1 award. Both nominees — Nicky Bowers of McPherson Middle School and Kelsi Chisholm of Moundridge Middle School and Moundridge High School — are art teachers.

"It's nice to be recognized," Bowers said. "Sometimes the electives are overlooked, so it is great to bring attention to the subjects taught in non-core classrooms."

Bowers, a Bethany College graduate who is originally from Nebraska, taught art to 800 students at two elementary schools in Hutchinson before coming to McPherson.

In her eight years at McPherson Middle School, Bowers led her students not only in class, but in special projects such as designing and painting a mural for the school's gymnasium.

"They all submitted a drawing about what makes them proud at McPherson Middle School," Bowers said. "I took bits and pieces from all their drawings and put the wall together to create this big thing."

All the submitted drawings — which included images representing the school, sports, the arts and reading — were woven together into a plan for the mural.

This past summer, she also worked with small groups of students to create another mural at the entrance to the school and mosaics in the hallways and stairwells.

"Every day is a new challenge with middle schoolers," Bowers said. "You never know what's going to happen or what funny thing they're going to say. They're a fun group to work with."

Chisholm appreciates working with Bowers at the annual McPherson County Art Showcase.

"I've always been so impressed with her students' work and can tell she runs a classroom that is getting a lot done," Chisholm said.

Chisholm is in her 11th year of teaching art in Moundridge to middle school and high school students.

"When kids walk into our buildings every day, our number one goal is to make them feel loved and engaged," Chisholm said.

Chisholm also coaches the middle school girl's volleyball team and leads the high school's cultural connections club, which allows students to experience different people, places and foods.

"We saw the need to give our kids opportunities to experience diverse cultures," Chisholm said.

Art students have the chance to apply what Chisholm teaches them by participating in an art mentorship program. Those who volunteer for the program work for one month to guide students in younger grades in an art project.

"It's really cool to see the high school students work in small groups or one-on-one with those little kids," Chisholm said.

Chisholm also worked to revitalize the middle school interest clubs in Moundridge, pulling in high school students to share their passion not only for art, but also sewing, robotics, aviation, etc.

Besides promoting arts in the classroom, Chisholm also volunteers with the Moundridge Arts Council to bring arts to the community through events like the Best of Moundridge photo contest and plans to paint an outdoor mural.

"We really do have amazing people, great industry and a rich history here," Chisholm said.

Chisholm credits the support from school administration at all levels and her fellow teachers for her success in teaching art.

"I think that art encompasses all," Chisholm said. "Art is math and science and writing. It really takes all of us."

This year, 131 educators from across the state were nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction.

"I truly am honored and humbled to receive (the nomination), but you also look around and see your friends and colleagues who are doing all these awesome things, too," Chisholm said. "...I hope to be a representative of our school and our district and say we're doing great things here."

Kansas Teacher of the Year nominations are made in each of the four congressional districts in the state. The Kansas State Department of Education appoints regional selection panels comprised of teachers, education administrators and higher education representatives to select semifinalists and finalists from each region.

Each panel selects six semifinalists – three elementary teachers and three secondary teachers. The semifinalists will be announced at a reception at 11 a.m. Sept. 14 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 3320 S. Ninth St. in Salina.

From those semifinalists, the panel in each region then selects one elementary finalist and one secondary finalist. The Kansas Teacher of the Year is selected from among the state’s eight regional finalists. The 2020 Kansas Teacher of the Year State Awards Banquet will be Nov. 23 at the Wichita Marriott Hotel.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.