Two outstanding educators have been selected by USD 231 to advance to the Kansas Teacher of the Year Regional Competition are Jennifer Watkins, first grade teacher at Moonlight Elementary and Spencer Nolan, communications teacher at Pioneer Ridge Middle School.

Jennifer Watkins

Jennifer Watkins

Watkins, USD 231’s elementary level honoree, has been in education for five years, all at Gardner Edgerton. She taught third grade for four years and moved to first grade this year. As a first-year teacher in 2011, she was nominated for the Kansas State Department of Education Horizon Award for exemplary first-year teachers.
In addition to her daily teaching responsibilities, Watkins co-chairs the Moonlight Student Council Committee, attends local educational workshops to share information back to colleagues, serves as co-chair for the Earth Day Committee, mentors future teachers in resume building and mock interviews, and finds time to share the president position for the Moonlight Elementary PTA.
“Jennifer possesses outstanding instructional skills,” said Ryan Horne, Moonlight Elementary principal. “She emphasizes the importance of developing the whole child, focusing on developing social skills and modeling and recognizing character traits that are needed to be a successful citizen in the world. Jennifer’s class is always buzzing with student engagement and movement. Numerous brain-based instructional strategies and classroom climate building practices can be observed in a brief amount of time spent in Jennifer’s classroom. Jennifer is thoroughly deserving of receiving this distinguished recognition.”
Watkins holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Washburn University, and received a score of Excellence on the Praxis Test for licensure.

Spencer Nolan

Spencer Nolan

Spencer Nolan, USD 231’s secondary level honoree, has been in the teaching profession for 11 years, all at Gardner Edgerton in the special education program.
In addition to his daily teaching responsibilities, he has co-developed the following teaching materials, “Teaching Students with Autism: A Helpful Guide for Teachers,” “Special Services: A Partnership in Education,” and “Characteristics of Students with Asperger Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.” Spencer also received the P.R.I.D.E. Award at Pioneer Ridge in demonstrating excellence in the classroom.
“Spencer is held in high regard and is admired for the depth of knowledge and expertise he possesses regarding communication disorders,” said Tim Drake, Pioneer Ridge Middle School principal. “Spencer is regularly sought out by PRMS staff to gain insight as to the best way to support his students in their classroom as well as other staff members in the District for consultation on student matters.  Spencer has a very strong commitment to the profession and an equally strong commitment to the students he teaches. His selection as USD 231 Teacher of the Year is very well deserved.”
Nolan holds a master’s degree in Education (special education) with emphasis in Autism and Asperger Syndrome See BEST, page 8
From BEST, page 1
from University of Kansas, a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a bachelor’s degree in History from Kansas State University.
Each year the Kansas State Department of Education looks for one outstanding teacher to become its Teacher of the Year, and sponsors a statewide competition. Each school district in the state is given the opportunity to nominate one elementary and one secondary teacher. Once selected as a District Teacher of the Year winner, an extensive application process must be completed to move onto the regional competition. A regional selection committee is responsible for selecting six semi-finalist, three elementary teachers and three secondary teachers at the regional level. Each regional finalist becomes a state finalist for the Kansas Teacher of the Year.