2014 Kansas
Master Teachers

Bonnie Austin

Secondary Instructional Coach
USD 443 Dodge City

John V. Bode

Third-Grade Teacher
USD 497 Lawrence

Lori Gunzelman

Seventh-Grade Math Teacher
USD 385 Andover

Signe Truelove

Special Education Teacher
USD 253 Emporia

Carla Varner

Fifth-Grade Teacher
USD 490 El Dorado

Kathleen Wilhite

Retired Math Teacher
USD 233 Olathe

Maria Worthington

English Language Arts teacher
USD 229 Blue Valley

Kansas Master Teacher Award

Maria Worthington

Maria Worthington

2014 Kansas Master Teacher

English Language Arts teacher
Blue Valley North High School
USD 229 Blue Valley


Passion. Devotion. A calling. Three of many descriptors used by those who know Maria Worthington, who teaches English Language Arts at Blue Valley North High School.

“Her passion for the language and the literature itself, her love for the students, and her devotion to teaching as a whole is what makes Mrs. Worthington one of the few who can in turn inspire a true love of learning in her students,” wrote a current senior in her classroom.

Worthington earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education from The University of Kansas. She earned National Board certification with the support of a program offered at Emporia State University.

For Worthington, a career in education was a natural fit.

“The teaching genes are strong in my family,” she said.

Her mother, a retired teacher, “still lovingly teaches and inspires daily,” she said. Her maternal grandfather began as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and was honored with the Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation Award in 1961.

“Beyond crafting lessons and assigning homework, I believe in looking at each student with empathy, just like my mother taught.”

Being able to see inside her students and motivating them leaves a lasting impact.

“I truthfully will never forget the first morning I went in for extra help on an essay, for it was one of the first times in my life when someone that I respected and admired showed true faith in my writing,” a student wrote. “For perhaps the first time in my life, I had true faith in myself.”

Another student recalled walking into AP English class as a senior with the attitude that literature would not apply to anything later in life.

“I remember it like yesterday,” the student wrote. “She said, ‘Some of you may have no desire to be in this class, but if you’re going to be here, I have a challenge for you — love it or hate it.’ … I ended up loving her English class more than any other literature class I have ever taken. Ironically, I have been using the information from AP English more than many of the other classes I took during high school as I am currently studying performing arts with an emphasis on classical theater.”

Worthington brings her outside experience into the classroom. As a reader for the national Advanced Placement literature and composition exam she was able to give more specific instruction to her students. For another assignment, she helped students craft submissions to National Public Radio’s This I Believe website. Through a national Crystal Apple Award from Time Warner Cable, Worthington was able to bring stars from the Animal Planet to the school for an assembly, working with biology and zoology teachers to make it relevant for all students.

Her involvement with Wounded Warrior Projects — completing the Tough Mudder 11-mile Special Operations Forces charity run — turned into a literature unit using “All Quiet on the Western Front” with students raising money for Wounded Warrior Project.

Worthington also has served on the board of Fairway Homes Association, worked with Advanced Placement teachers and students to raise food donations for Harvesters through a kickball tournament volunteers time with the curriculum committee of her Old Mission Methodist Church.