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 Joan Hayden

Joan Hayden

2017 Kansas Master Teacher

Physical Education Teacher
Fort Riley Middle School
USD 475 Geary County


“A lot of students come to me with the pre-conceived notion that they cannot do a certain skill, sport, or activity because they have never done it before,” says Joan Hayden. She tells the students if they say they “can’t,” it has to be followed with the word “yet.”

Helping Hayden face medical issues as a child, her parents treated her no differently than her siblings. “This upbringing taught me to persevere,” says Hayden. “I purposefully set my mind to enter a health care profession so I could positively impact others. Through physical education, I can help others establish healthy habits for life.”

Hayden began teaching in 1988 after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in physical education. She began her career teaching PE at Jefferson Elementary and Morris Hill Elementary Schools in Fort Riley. She has taught in Geary County USD 475 throughout her entire nearly 30-year career.

When asked what she teaches, Hayden responds, “I teach students through physical education” because within the PE curriculum she integrates math, social studies, science and life skills. Her students explore physical movement through less traditional activities like dance, water safety, Omnikin Ball (a sport favoring strategic thinking over skill), and pickleball in order to get students out of their comfort zones and level the playing field for less sports-minded students.

“When Joan comes to a meeting, everyone knows to wear comfy shoes because she won’t be just talking about fitness,” says a colleague.

Whether it is with her students, with other educators, or with community members, Hayden’s “commitment to fostering an interest in health and wellness is evident everywhere,” shares another colleague. Events she has coordinated and which evolved over time include a Dance Final, including DJ, guests, and judges; the spring wellness fair; and a canoe trip in May with more than 200 middle school students.

With nearly 100 percent of her students having parents or guardians in the United States Army facing deployments of up to a year at a time, Hayden’s ability to relate and connect with her students is remarkable. “Joanie does everything in her power to help them succeed,” attests a community member.

“Most gym teachers just make you run and don’t care about how you feel about yourself,” writes one current student. “I admire Mrs. Hayden because she shows all her students compassion. She always makes time for me and my peers. She is the type of teacher we feel safe to confide in.”