Laura Maxwell and company jetted from school to school with fervor.
Maxwell, director of Partners in Education and library media for the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Phyllis Balagna, a R-7 school board member and Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce members Dave Coffman and Sheri Hand, were among the four-person contingent that traveled to 11 different schools March 21 to present 12 different teachers the Chamber’s annual Excellence in Teaching awards.
The early morning surprise visits – which began at Lee’s Summit North High School at 8:40 a.m. and ended at Summit Technology Academy at 11:55 a.m. – were met with genuine enthusiasm by building administrators, staff, winning teachers and their students alike. Maxwell and her group were thrilled to present the awards, which contained a sealed envelope that was sworn to secrecy until a noon deadline had passed.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to be able to go out and celebrate all the incredible things our teachers are doing for kids in the classrooms,” Maxwell said. “We’ve got over 1,200 teachers who make a difference on a daily basis and this is a great chance to really celebrate that.”
“Each and every year it gets more exciting than the year before,” added Balagna, now in her fifth year taking part in the presentations. “Walking into the classrooms and seeing the teachers expecting the unexpected – they don’t know what’s going on – and we’re able to make the announcement. It’s very exciting celebrating the teachers in our district.”
Coffman said: “I’m a retired school principal. And so having an opportunity to go out and to be in the schools and see the teachers and the expressions on the faces of the kids knowing that their teacher is one of those special people…it’s wonderful.”
At a stop at Underwood Elementary School, physical education teacher Stacey Bryant joked with school principal Sandra Rice as Rice, assistant principal Stephen Campbell and Maxwell and crew converged on her gym class.
“Am I fired?” Bryant, a 13-year member of the Underwood staff, said with a chuckle, before later adding: “at first I thought ‘am I in trouble?’ I do a lot of things sometimes that can get me in trouble.”
Quite the contrary, Rice said afterwards.
“That is so not true,” Rice said of Bryant’s admission of wrongdoing. “So not true. Stacey Bryant is the best. Not only as a P.E. teacher, but she really does a lot of other things for our school. The list is very long of all the things she does. Not just for the school, not just for the students, but for the community as well.”
Rice added the annual award presentations is something teachers and administrators in the district look forward to each spring.
“The district and the support the district gets from the Chamber is phenomenal,” she said. “We are so proud and so thankful to have them in our district and have them available to us. I know they work hard and it really shows. The staff just appreciates that and loves it.”
Added Hand, a retired former teacher at Bernard Campbell Middle School: “Teaching is probably one of the most unsung hero kinds of jobs. To have an opportunity to celebrate teachers is just a great opportunity and it’s great for us to be a part of that. These teachers represent some of the finest. In this district we are blessed with many, many, many amazing teachers, so it’s a tremendous honor to be a part of this and it’s exciting to see these teachers celebrated.”
In addition to Bryant, the other 11 Excellent in Teaching winners were: Tracy Bertoncin, Lee’s Summit High School; Ricky Boedeker, Greenwood Elementary School; Jessi Cox, Summit Pointe Elementary School; Kathy Giangreco, Bernard Campbell Middle School, Sarah Graff, Lee’s Summit North High School; Peggy Hinzman, Summit Technology Academy, Kay Radar, Sunset Valley Elementary School; Melissa Searls, Lee’s Summit West High School; Deanna Soukup, Bernard Campbell; Laura Turner, Highland Park Elementary School; and Michael Walker Summit Lakes Middle School.
Each teacher presented March 21 is now a finalist for the 2012-2013 R-7 Teacher of the Year award.