Summit Lakes’ music director wins district’s top teacher award

tporter@lsjournal.comApril 9, 2014 

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    5 Teachers at Summit Lakes Middle School that have been named the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District’s Teacher of the Year since the school opened in the fall of 2000.

The administration at Summit Lakes Middle School may need to clear space if the trend of collecting banners continues.

For the fifth time in the school’s nearly decade-and-a-half of existence, a teacher there has been named the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Teacher of the Year.

The latest winner – vocal music director Beth Files – spent April 7 preparing music students for the annual Parade of Choirs concert April 15 at Lee’s Summit West High School. The previous three days were sort of a whirlwind for the 29-year teaching veteran and being back in the classroom represented the proverbial sense of normalcy for Files.

“It’s the kids,” Files said of her motivation to teach. “Everybody has those days no matter what job where you are just a little bit tired and unsure of what you are doing. Undoubtedly when I am having one of those days some student will say something to me, or smile at me, or they finally get it; finally the music sounds great. That is what makes me go, ‘OK, I’m doing what I need to be doing.’

“I know this is where I need to be and this is where I’m supposed to be.”

Files’ name was unveiled on a banner commemorating her as the teacher of the year during the district’s annual Excellence in Teaching awards ceremony April 3 at Longview Mansion.

As the district’s teacher of the year, Files is also a finalist for Missouri Teacher of the Year.

“I really meant what I said last Thursday; every teacher in this building – and across this district – are so worthy of all kinds of honors,” she said. “When I walk around and watch people teach it’s amazing the things I see. It’s so creative and fun and I really truly believe the kids have fun here. They’re learning and they take it serious, but most of the time they are smiling.”

Files’ award made it back-to-back years a teacher at Summit Lakes was awarded as the district’s teacher of the year. Last year’s winner, speech and theater teacher Brian Campbell, briefly sat in for Files April 7 as she excused herself from class to speak with a reporter.

“Without sounding like I’m bragging, I’ve always known that we have something special out here,” Campbell said shortly after Files returned to class. “We’ve had five teachers of the year, but to have one back-to-back is amazing.”

Students in Files’ fifth-hour music class said they were not surprised that Files was named the district’s top teacher for the 2013-14 school year.

“She’s a really great teacher,” said seventh-grade student Ontario Bingley. “She knows what she’s doing and I really like that about her.”

“I’m happy for her because she is a good teacher,” added classmate Gabriella Cullen. “She cares and she works with kids when they don’t understand. A lot of teachers don’t do that, but she tries her best to help us out.”

A third student, Demonte Montgomery, said he may have been surprised by the announcement, but wasn’t afraid to admit that Files has helped him succeed in music class.

“She’s really nice,” Demonte said.

David Carlson, principal at Summit Lakes, said the school will replace Campbell’s banner that hangs at the school’s entrance with Files’ at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. He added talk is already underway about a permanent display to honor the five teachers that have represented the school as the district’s teacher of the year.

“We have so many great teachers and they are great representatives,” Carlson said. “We were talking and we did an inventory; Summit Lakes has had five teachers of the year in the 14 years that it’s been open. I think that is a credit to all of our teachers and the way that the staff rallies around each other and lift each other up and pour into each other to be better for students.

“Beth Files is a great example of that. When you go on to watch Beth teach you see that it is 100 percent about students 100 percent of the time and it’s always positive. She’s always encouraging.”

As for Files, she said the shock of winning hadn’t wore off after a weekend of fielding phone calls, text messages and emails congratulating her on the honor.

“I still walk around and stop once-in-a-minute and go ‘really?’ Files said. “I’m very, very excited about that. I’m still in disbelief.”

Previous R-7 school district teacher of the year honorees from Summit Lakes include: Susie Zammar in 2002, Cindy Kennedy in 2004 and Carol Dunn in 2006.

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