2017 Kansas
Master Teachers

John Butcher

Art Teacher
USD 229 Blue Valley

Melinda Eitel

Kindergarten Teacher
USD 305 Salina

Joan Hayden

Physical Education Teacher
USD 475 Geary County

Jennifer Hendrix

Physics Teacher
USD 443 Dodge City

Kimberly Hett

5th Grade Teacher
USD 385 Andover

Brandy Lane

6th Grade Teacher
USD 437 Auburn Washburn

Laura Schwinn

A/V Communications Teacher
USD 253 Emporia

Kansas Master Teacher Award


photo of Melinda Eitel

Melinda Eitel

2017 Kansas Master Teacher

Kindergarten Teacher
Grace E. Stewart Elementary School
USD 305 Salina


When Melinda Eitel received her first teaching job just two weeks before school started, it was a class combining two grades. She was advised by colleagues to teach to the middle of both grade levels, or to the high end of the lower grade, and “everyone else will be fine.”

“Fine” was not good enough for Melinda Eitel’s students.

“In my heart I knew that was not the kind of teacher I was destined to become,” Eitel states. “It was during this year that I truly began to realize that each and every student is a unique individual with unique learning styles, preferences, and abilities.”

That philosophy has guided her practice for the last 25 years.

“She constantly assesses each child’s abilities to make sure that they are getting what they need,” writes a parent.

Eitel earned a bachelor’s in education from Fort Hays State University in 1991 and a master’s from Kansas State University in 2010. She began her career as a substitute teacher in 1991 for Salina USD 305 and built her career there, working in four different elementary schools in Kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms.

As an elementary teacher covering all content areas, Eitel brings volunteers into her classroom to aid individualized instruction. These volunteers are critical to student success as they ensure children are actively engaged, correctly practicing skills, and having fun learning.

Eitel also eagerly takes advantage of “in the moment” learning opportunities as they arise. Is it a foggy morning? Students will graph it on the classroom weather chart, then go outside to see what is visible (or not), feel the humidity, observe the moisture on the sidewalk, and discuss cloud formation.

But it is not what is taught, but how students are taught that Eitel stresses. “In my experience I have seen that children learn best in a nurturing classroom.”

“In the fast paced, over-tested classrooms that we now struggle to function in, it is even more important that I take the time to listen when one of my student wants to tell me about the tooth they lost the night before, [or] show me their newly mastered skill of tying their shoes,” Eitel says.

“I was scared to go to Kindergarten,” writes a former student – now in fourth grade – in a handwritten letter. “Mrs. Eitel gave us a special poem and magical confetti. She told us to put it under our pillow the night before school started. It helped us sleep better…Because of Mrs. Eitel, I really like school.”