Special Education Teacher
USD 512 Shawnee Mission
USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden
Eighth-Grade U.S. History Teacher
USD 490 El Dorado
USD 203 Piper
Seventh-Grade Social Studies Teacher
USD 437 Auburn Washburn
Speech & Drama Teacher
USD 229 Blue Valley
Art Teacher, 6th-8th Grades
USD 385 Andover
Kansas Master Teacher Award
2015 Kansas Master Teacher
At different times, according to Leslie McAfee, teachers share characteristics with parents and grandparents, serving as performers on a stage, cheerleaders, fun-loving compatriots and business professionals.
“Learn to relieve yourself of the exhaustive responsibility of the starring role,” McAfee wrote in an open letter to a new teacher describing her teaching philosophy. “Let your students become the performers and ease yourself into the role of stage manager.”
McAfee attended Kansas City Kansas Community College before heading to Kansas State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education in 1976. She taught at Eisenhower Junior High in the Kansas City, Kansas, school district from 1978 until 1981. She began teaching at Piper High School in 1997.
From the beginning of her career, McAfee has incorporated techniques she believes will help her students regardless of what other teachers may think. She admits it wasn’t easy as she recounts her first month as a teacher when she arranged the desks into groups of three and four. A veteran teacher shook McAfee’s confidence with a simple statement: “Oh, I see we are playing middle school today!”
A perceptive administrator, however, told McAfee to stick with her instincts, and her freshman classroom continues to have desks in small groups.
Throughout her career, she has made a reputation of reaching out to those who feel overwhelmed — both students and fellow faculty — as well as making math accessible to her students.
Students who have left McAfee’s classroom continue to feel connected and seek her out.
“She was one of the few teachers who would take the time to help students even in other subjects,” recalled one former student. “I distinctly remember my senior year, Mrs. McAfee allowing a small group of us to hold a study group in her classroom for our college anatomy and physiology class during our free period.”
One mother recounted her son’s first day of high school after attending a parochial grade school.
“He was filled with anxiety and he would not even exit the car,” the mother wrote. “Mrs. McAfee noticed through all the craziness of the first day of school and students rushing into the school that there was a child in need.
“Because of her compassion and soft-spoken manner, he was able to get out of the car that day and walk into a world unknown to him.”