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Jennifer West and Chris Shirk Honored for Excellence at First-Annual Team KSD Awards and Retiree Recognition

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Team KSD celebrates Teacher and Support Staff of the Year Award winners and 2023 retirees

Kearney School District celebrated the 19 exemplary employees chosen to receive Teacher of the Year and Support Staff of the Year honors during the first-annual Team KSD Awards & Retiree Reception held on Monday, April 17 at Tobacco Barn Farm in Holt.

“The determination to be the best on behalf of our students and community imbues every level of our team: teachers, support staff and administrators,” Superintendent Emily Miller said. “Our culture of excellence serves a crucial educational purpose. Our students may not always be conscious that it exists, but they learn it nevertheless. Excellence becomes part of their DNA. That is why this work is so important and so essential. We are here to celebrate your work.”

A large group of KSD staff visited with the honorees during the after-school event. It culminated with the announcement that Kearney High School social studies teacher Jennifer West was selected to receive the district’s overall 2023 Kearney School District Teacher of the Year Award and Network Administrator Chris Shirk was selected to receive the overall 2023 Kearney School District Support Staff of the Year Award.

LINK: 2023 Team KSD Awards & Retiree Recognition Reception Photos

Mrs. West is described by school administrators, fellow faculty members and parents/guardians as a dynamic social studies teacher. This year, she implemented a Human Geography that is helping the Kearney Fire and Rescue Protection District (KFRPD) in a Real World Learning project to identify potential sites for a second firehouse. That meant that she had to teach herself how to use specialized mapping software in order to guide her students through the project.

“Her classes are always very engaging and students are actively involved,” Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services Jennifer Kopp said. “She goes over the essential content but always has side stories to make the content relevant and interesting to her students.”

Director of Special Education Heather Guilkey praised Mr. Shirk for his attention to detail and aptitude for seeing all sides of an issue. His customer service skills were particularly vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Chris was at the receiving end of many phone calls from parents, guardians, and grandparents trying to get their students online to access instruction,” Dr. Guilkey said. “Chris frequently begins working long before any teaching or office staff arrive, ensuring a consistent user experience by checking to see that all systems are working properly. If they are not, his early arrival usually gives him plenty of time to fix the issue before many have even noticed.”

Each KSD school selected one certified teacher and one support staff member to receive their building’s 2023 awards. The district award recipients were selected from that pool of school-level honorees. 

Along with their recognition plaques, West received a $250 cash award and a $750 classroom grant and Shirk received a $250 cash award and a $250 classroom grant from the Kearney School District Education Foundation. They can choose to spend their grants on education-related projects or items of their choice.

The event included recognition for the 14 KSD staff who will be retiring at the end of the current academic year. They each received a special embossed crystal apple. They also were each asked to select a book that the district purchased as a signed gift for their school libraries.

“The people whose names I am about to call represent countless years of dedication and experience,” Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Zach McMains said. “You have each earned this opportunity, and we are all so grateful for your selfless service on behalf of our students, schools and community. We recognize that it is our job to carry on the legacy of excellence that you built in KSD.”

KSD also honored the KFRPD as our 2023 Business of the Year because of its valuable partnership in education on behalf of our students, families and the community as a whole. Kelly Gentry received our 2023 Volunteer of the Year for his selfless service.

All of this year’s honorees will also be recognized at the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Excellence in Education Awards Banquet on April 25. West has already been nominated by KSD for the Missouri Regional Teacher of the Year recognition, which will be announced this summer.\

2023 School Teacher of the Year Award Recipients

  • Early Education Center – Staci Bonderer
  • Dogwood Elementary – Amory Maley
  • Hawthorne Elementary – Gayla Mogg
  • Kearney Elementary – Sara Kimmel
  • LENS – Audrianna Wooster
  • Southview Elementary – Amanda Noll
  • Kearney Middle School – Jana Klaehn-Sturm
  • Kearney Junior High – Daniel Roberts
  • Kearney High School – Jennifer West (2023 Kearney School District Teacher of the Year Award)

2023 School Support Staff of the Year Award Recipients

  • Early Education Center – Cynthia Hollinberger
  • Dogwood Elementary – Tamera Couchman
  • Hawthorne Elementary – Michelle Cobb
  • Kearney Elementary – Joleen Holsten
  • LENS – Susan Beery
  • Southview Elementary – Sabrina Clayton
  • Kearney Middle School – Kaitlyn Parks
  • Kearney Junior High – Toni Sinclair
  • Kearney High School – Angie Carpenter
  • KSD Central Office – Chris Shirk (2023 Kearney School District Support Staff of the Year Award)

2023 Team KSD Retirees (Book Gift)

  • Kate Antos – Kearney Middle School (One Hundred and One Famous Poems compiled by Roy J. Cook)
  • Julie Buckman – Dogwood Elementary (Zach’s Lie by Roland Smith)
  • Tamera Couchman – Dogwood Elementary (Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling)
  • Kristina DeLuca – Southview Elementary (Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen)
  • Heidi Dodd – Kearney Middle School (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak)
  • Richard Haas – Kearney High School (Wins, Losses and Lessons: An Autobiography by Lou Holtz)
  • Mike Hoffman – Kearney Junior High (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
  • Becky Kohlstaedt – Kearney High School (The Smart Cookie by Jory John)
  • Gayla Mogg – Hawthorne Elementary (The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood)
  • Audra Pelham – Kearney Middle School (The North Star by Peter Reynolds)
  • Kerri Prom – Kearney Middle School (Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor)
  • Patty Roussin – EEC & Puppy Pound (Old Black Fly by Jim Aylesworth)
  • Vicki Smith – Southview Elementary (Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch)
  • Dana Starzl – Kearney Middle School (Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)

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