The Kansas State Department of Education notified the district’s Horizon Award winners that they both earned state honors! Haley Epperson, fourth grade teacher at Spring Hill Elementary School, and Jamie Droegemeier who teaches math at Spring Hill Middle School received calls from the Commissioner of Education congratulating them on their exemplary performance during their first year in the classroom.
Only 32 educators from across the state earn this distinction, including 16 elementary teachers and 16 secondary teachers. This is a high honor for both teachers, their schools and the district, as only four elementary and four secondary classroom teachers are selected for the award from each U.S. Congressional District. Both teachers clearly showed their merit, as they earned honors in a highly competitive region.
Epperson began her journey into teaching and helping people in high school by getting involved with summer youth programs. She attended Baker University, and received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education along with an endorsement in English to Speakers of Other Languages (ELL). While in college, she worked as a paraprofessional at an elementary school and then as a migrant and ELL aide at middle schools in Olathe.
One of Epperson’s favorite things about teaching is relate academic concepts to real-world experiences and life lessons. She said, “Seeing the development that occurs from individually challenging a student on their personal level gives me so much pride in my teaching and is the single most rewarding part of my job.”
When talking about her goals for students, Epperson said, “My goal is to keep their curiosities high and create fun, hands-on experiences for them so they learn concepts. I hope that all of them maintain a desire for learning as they grow.”
Droegemeier who has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Pittsburg State University took a different path into the classroom. Spending 14 years as an accountant in private practice, he felt called to do something more meaningful and pursued his teaching certification through Mid America Nazarene University. Currently, he is pursuing his master’s degree in technology-enhanced teaching. Regarding his career change, he said, “It has been more than three years since I made that decision, and the choice looks better with each day that passes.”
When considering the rewards of teaching, Droegemeier noted that it has been the relationships built with students along with their growth. He notes that some students come to math class with the attitude that is too hard or not important, and his goal is to show them that math can be enjoyable and worth the effort.
“I want my students to see how math is a part of our everyday life and nearly any career they might choose so it is very important to learn,” said Droegemeier. “To be successful today, you must be flexible and a problem-solver. My goal is for each of my students to develop those skills and find success.”