Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Harry K Quality Educator Award

I would bet that every person over the age of twenty, if asked about a special teacher, could offer a unique story about how a teacher touched their life in some special way. Perhaps that teacher helped us in the classroom, in the arts, on the field or in our personal life. Some of us have been fortunate enough to have a couple or maybe several experiences like that.

Though it is a bit cliché, the work that these teachers do every day is so important. Often we don’t realize how important until much later.

So that is how the Harry K Quality Educator Award came about. We wanted to recognize, in a unique way, some of these teachers who do such good work both in their classroom and in their community. We wanted to partner with other businesses that have a track record of investing in the community. Harry K’s is very proud and pleased to have joined with Al’s Oasis/Cedar Shore Resort, Pharmco, Statewide Ag Insurance and KWYR/Magic 93 radio.

These businesses are community partners that have invested in and continue to participate in programs that benefit teachers, staff, students and community members. I hope that, if you have a need for any of the products or services they provide, you will give them, each a local business, an opportunity to earn your business.

In November 2012, we began asking people to nominate teachers that they felt were “special” – and we had a great response. We received 49 nominations from 12 different school districts. Thirty-five teachers were nominated (several teachers had multiple nominations). Each of those teachers were asked to submit an application.

Each sponsor picked a judge. None of the sponsors knew who the other judges were. Our judges, independently and anonymously, scored each nominee’s application on Creativity and Originality, Communication Skills, Education Contributions/Accomplishments, Professional Development and Community Involvement.

Based on those scores, we named six finalists in April 2013: Karen Graber of Chamberlain, Greg Sherman of Colome, Rhonda Vaughn-Waterbury of Gregory, Mari Biehl of Platte, Kristine Brockhoft and Cynthia DeMers of Winner.

From those finalists, two Harry K Quality Educator Award winners were selected. In May 2013, we recognized  Kristine Brockhoft and Cynthia DeMers of Winner.

From the May 2013 press release:

Kristine Brockhoft is a teacher at Winner High School. She is a graduate of South Dakota State University and has been in the Winner School system since 1996 specializing in Family and Consumer Sciences. Kristine has received various awards and recognition including most recently National Association of Teacher of Family and Consumer Sciences Distinguished Service Award. Her community involvement includes church, 4H, Girl Scouts and the Winner Food Bank.
“Lack of parental involvement is the major problem facing public schools today,” commented Brockhoft in her application. “The earlier parents get involved in their children’s educational process the more powerful the effects will be. Family participation in education is twice as predictive of student’s academic success as family socioeconomic status. As educators we need to design school programs to encourage parent involvement at school and guide parents in how to specifically help their children at home.”
Cynthia DeMers has been a teacher at Winner High School since 1984. She is a graduate of Northern State University. Cindy teaches Technology and Language Arts and has received various awards and recognition including most recently Winner PTA teacher of the month award. Her community involvement includes church, 4H, Job’s Daughters International and a SD National Guard family readiness volunteer.
“Today’s students spend a great deal of time using social media, “ stated DeMers in her application. “I want to incorporate their experiences in the classroom and make sure they understand issues that may affect them while using social media. The advantages of knowledge at their fingertips, the disadvantages to make sure your resources are reliable and being appropriate in your postings. The world is so small and kids will so easily be involved with counterparts from all over the world through social media. It is imperative they realize that technology is a tool—like a pen or piece of paper, not the solution.“
“On behalf of Pharmco, Statewide Ag, Al’s Oasis and KWYR Radio, I would like to congratulate Kris and Cindy,” said Doug Knust, owner of Harry K Automotive Group. “By all accounts, both are very deserving of this award and we are proud that this award goes to such top quality educators.”
“I would also like to thank all those who nominated an educator for this award and all those who completed an application,” commented Knust. “It is very encouraging to see the high level of teachers we have in our region. We thank all our teachers for the important work they do every day!”
Kristine Brockhoft
2013 HKQEA Winner

Cynthia DeMers
2013 HKQEA Winner

So we repeated the process for the 2014 HKQEA beginning in January 2014. In April we named the five finalists: Karen Graber of Chamberlain, Trisha Burke of Chamberlain, Shawn Wynia of Platte, Mike Murray of Gregory, Billie Jo Indahl of Burke.

We were again blessed with great quality and breadth in the nominations. Our winners were Trisha Burke and Shawn Wynia.

Trisha Burke has been teaching in the Chamberlain School District since 1991. She was influenced to pursue education by her own teachers, in Chamberlain.

Trisha is proud to be a teacher. She gives her students 100% every day and she challenges them to be better by setting high standards then pushing them to meet those standards.

In the words of one of her former students, " Trisha always encourages students to voice their opinions, creatively express themselves, and develop original thinking. Each of her assignments invites students to personally invest themselves and be creative. I have experienced this from very few other instructors."

On a personal note, I have three kids who have been under Trisha's tutelage and each of them regards her as a teacher who challenged them, inspired them  and prepared them for college studies.

Mrs. Burke remarked in her application, "My vision of education is one where the promise of tomorrow is achieved through promoting tolerance and hard work. At the center of this vision, I place Mahatma Gandhi's words: "Be the change you would like to see in the world.""

I think it is fair to say that you are Trisha! Congratulations!

Trisha Burke
2014 HKQEA Winner
Shawn Wynia has been teaching at the Cedar Grove Colony School since 2011. She currently teaches 5th-8th graders all subjects. 

Shawn took an extended route in following in her father's footsteps in education. After starting in a career in accounting, she was drawn into the teaching profession when she took a paraprofessional position and found she loved working with students on a daily basis. 

She managed her family and job while pursuing an online education degree. She completed the course of study for an Elementary Education and K-12 Special Education Bachelor of Arts program in just over 4 years.

"I feel I am an outstanding teacher because I work towards developing each student academically, socially, and emotionally. " Shawn stated  in her application. "In teaching, I am rewarded each day when the students succeed. Seeing students grow into the knowledge and be able to explain what they are doing and why they are doing a certain activity is rewarding. Students with a deep understanding of content will be able to apply the concept all through their life."

As a parent of one of Shawn's students remarked, "Shawn's dedication to the art of education and her pursuit of quality individualized education of the mind and soul to each and every one of her students make her more than worthy of the Harry K Quality Educator Award."

I couldn't agree more! Congratulations Shawn!

Shawn Wynia
2014 HKQEA Winner
These are just four of the many wonderful educators we have in our area. Hopefully, the Harry K Quality Educator Award will focus more attention on the important work these teachers do every day in classrooms around our eight county area!

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