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The foundation of a great school begins with its teaching staff.  There are a number of ingredients that make that foundation strong including parents, students, community, support staff, etc, however, the teaching staff is, in my opinion, the single greatest influence upon learning in our students.  At Ottawa High School our staff has been recognized statewide for their achievements in the classroom including Stella Tharp who was chosen to be a finalist for Teacher of the Year as well as Collin Eidelson who was this years recipient of the Horizon Award for first year teachers.

It is an incredible honor to be nominated and receive state awards, however, they are few and far between and are spread out between the hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of teachers throughout the state of Kansas.  In effort to showcase our appreciation for the work that our staff does we created an app. on the chromebook in partnership with Kansas State Bank, Hasty Awards, and The Brand-N-Iron in which our students can nominate a teacher as the “Staff Member of the Month.”

In August I met with Roger Maxwell regarding the creation of a program in which we could showcase the greatness of our staff.  Roger worked with Steve Hasty at Hasty Awards and Dale Roecker from the Brand-N-Iron to provide a plaque for the winners as well as a $30 gift certificate from the Brand-N-Iron.  We then created the process for nomination and opened the application on our students chromebooks so that they could nominate teachers for the award.  We then select a teacher from the nominations to receive the award.  

I wanted to share with readers of this column a couple of the nominations so that they can see the impact that our staff has on our students and the impact that this program has upon our staff.

“Because she is the most caring teacher anyone could ever have. Every time I go into her office with eyes filled with tears she takes the time out of her day to help me and talk to me about it. I can ALWAYS count on her and trust her with ANYTHING I tell her. It kind of makes me happy to know someone out there still cares and wants to help me get through any of the struggles I may be having. She can always bring a smile to my face when I walk into her room for fifth hour, even if I'm not having a good day she can still bring a smile to my face. She can always turn a bad day into a good day. Which is what I like in a teacher. Even if she is having a bad day she still smiles and makes sure all of her students are happy. There aren't enough words in the world to describe the things she does for all of her students, she has open a door to us girls that really need a teacher there for us when are upset. We have a special song for Women's Choir that seems to help all of the girls in there. No matter what she always has a bright shining smile on her face. She can always tell when you're upset. She gives us time to give her our opinion on things and values those opinions. I just love how I know she will never give up on her students even after they are graduated. I can always look to her for advice. She gives the most meaningful advice to us. I always look forward to her class because no matter what Mrs. Underwood will make me smile. She knows everyone has flaws and is going through a rough time but she looks past those things and see's the positive in everyone. I think Mrs. Underwood deserves to be teacher of the month.”

“Mr. Kornhaus is always the one to push us and make us learn and strive to be the best you can be. He is a great role model and actually wants to help. He will go above and beyond in order to help and make sure that we get the subject matter being taught. I have never learned so much in one class, and he has fun with us while teaching.”

“Mrs. Black has never failed to put a smile on my face, and she made learning algebra II fun. She is the reasons I am still in a math class. I wish she could have taught all my math classes. It was hard to choose between all of my teachers, but I truly think Mrs. Black is the best teacher I had, and ever will have.”

“Pedagogy: the art and science of being a teacher. Strangely enough, Madame Gray was the one to teach me this word in our Spanish 4 class. It strikes me as an interesting definition for teaching as it specifies "the art and the science." Teaching isn't something you can do the same way every year, boringly droning on. You can't expect every student to learn at the same level. There is an art to it, a different feeling to each individual. Madame makes our lessons individual. She will take time with you, will never make your questions seem stupid, and will practice the necessary skills over and over until your second language is second nature.
We tell our students that the worst thing they can do is show up at the first bell and leave at the last bell, but we don't tell our teachers the same thing. I mean, they're all contracted for more time, but that doesn't mean they're actively engaged. Madame is working with students every day before and after school. She set up a tutoring program where upper level students teach those who need any extra help. She is a teacher, as well as a friend and a mentor. I know that if I have any problems that I can go to her for a friendly ear. Madame celebrates in our successes and is there for support in our failures. She has helped us to grow as scholars and as individuals. She deserves so much more than just Teacher of the Month, but I know that she deserves this as well.”

These nominations are just 4 of the over 200 we have received in 2 months for this award.  The words from our students embody what we, as educators, strive to achieve and inspire us to give this profession and our students everything that we have.  I would once again like to think Kansas State Bank, Hasty Awards, and The Brand-N-Iron for making this award possible and most importantly our students for inspiring our staff to new heights.

Dr. Ryan Cobbs
Ottawa High School