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1992 Award Winners

1992 Kansas Master Teachers

* Special Award, ** Black Endowed Chair Recipient

Beth Bergsten, USD 475 Geary County

Ernest L. Brown, USD 208 WaKeeney

Irma Jean Fallon, USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden

Diane Low, USD 497 Lawrence

Ethel Marie Peterson, USD 443 Dodge City

Alana Kay Sewell, USD 382 Pratt

Joyce Ann Sinn, USD 234 Fort Scott


1992 KMT Program (pdf)

This program contains the names of the Master Teacher Nominees for the year listed here.

Biographies below were included in the program for the year listed here and were current as of that time.

Beth Bergsten

Library / Media Specialist
Ware Elementary School
USD 475, Geary County

Beth Bergsten's professional career was decided early in life-in third grade she wrote a poem about being a teacher, "and from then on I never thought about being anything else," said Bergsten. A self-described lifelong leamer, Bergsten has been the library / media specialist at Ware Elementary in Fort Riley since 1985. Before that she served as a resource learning disabled teacher at Forsyth Elementary, also in Fort Riley.

Bergsten received a bachelor of science in elementary education/special education, a master of science in learning disabilities, and library certification, all from Kansas State University.

She was the 1990-91 president of the Geary County Reading Association, and was the group's 1992 nominee for Kansas Reading Association's Outstanding Reading Educator. She also served as president of the Junction City Education Association in 1986-87, and has been the Ware PTA treasurer since 1990.

She received a $400 mini-grant from the district to purchase supplies and cover mailing costs for baking cookies to send to soldiers in Saudi Arabia who participated in Operation Desert Storm. In one fourth grade classroom, 18 of 23 children had a parent deployed to Saudi Arabia.

Tom Hawk, director of secondary curriculum and staff development for USD 383 in Manhattan, said, "Once in a great while a special person comes along that is able to make a continual and constant gift to our profession... Beth Bergsten is one such person."

Ernest L. Brown

Biology Teacher
Trego Community High School
USD 208, WaKeeney

Ernest Brown's philosophies of life and teaching are inseparable. A biology teacher at Trego Community High School in WaKeeney since 1970, Brown sincerely believes the future of this planet rests in the hands of this generation of students.

This advocate of "outdoor education" wants to make a difference in the science education and environmental ethics of students so their increased awareness will have a positive effect on the earth. Since 1989, he has taught a methods course at Fort Hays State University.

Fellow teachers say his success is obvious by the number and enthusiasm of students in his classes. His 80-plus member Science Club participates in the Adopt-a-Mile highway program and was instrumental in building floating nesting stirs WaKeeney for the Cedar Bluff Reservoir. Brown earned a bachelor of science degree a t Fort Hays State University and a master's degree in natural science from the University of South Dakota. He was the recipient of a $29,000 Christa McCauliffe Fellowship to develop environmental education and a Toyota TAPESTRY grant to establish a state-wide computer network that links students across the state and their scientific research. He also was the Kansas secondary school representative to the National Governor's Conference in Washington, D.C. in 1990.

A life member of the NEA, he also is active in the Kansas Association of Biology Teachers, National Science Teachers Association, and the Kansas Advisory Council for Environmental Education.

Irma Jean Fallon

Kindergarten Teacher
Ogden Elementary School
USD 383, Manhattan-Ogden

Irma (better known as "Irmie") Jean Fallon has taught kindergarten at Ogden Elementary in Ogden for 22 years. She also is the school's lead teacher for social studies and language arts.

Fallon received bachelor's and master's degrees from Kansas State University, and has done post graduate work at KSU and the University of Iowa. She was a 1991 USD 383 Nominee for the Master Teacher Award, and received a 1987 award for the promotion of mental health from the Riley County Mental Health Association.

At Ogden, 75 percent of the children are military dependents, who attend as many as three schools in a year. Manhattan/Ogden school social worker Edie Jorns said Fallon's dedication and enthusiasm to this transient population has become a source of stability in the school.

"Each student, no matter the length of their stay in the classroom, becomes special to Irma and is treated with importance," said Dr. Jorns.

Fallon believes parents are the most important influence in children's lives, and has sought ways to help them strengthen their parenting skills. She has taught Parent Effectiveness Training, and with her husband Don, co-sponsors a weekly Parents Anonymous chapter for parents learning how to stop abusing their children.

Fallon has been a leader in developmentally appropriate instruction - building on what students know and responding to their interests and abilities - and has published articles on the whole language philosophy.

Diane Low

South Junior High School
USD 497, Lawrence

For Diane Low, helping students with the difficult transition to adolescence goes hand in hand with teaching Core 7 and English 9 at South Junior High in Lawrence.

Quiet effectiveness is the phrase one nominator used to describe her. She received bachelor's and master's degree in education from the University of Kansas and has taught at South Junior High since 1973. She was named the Douglas County Jaycees Outstanding Young Educator in 1980. Currently, she is on the Board of Directors of the Kansas Committee for the Humanities, teaches Sunday school, is an advocate for the Kansas and national Middle School Association.

Active in local, state and national politics, Low regularly champions the cause of those who do not have a strong political voice of Lawrence their own. One nominator said she simply had a "continual desire to make things better for kids."

One parent wrote that Diane had noted changes in their daughter's behavior which alerted them to make modifications in her medicine dosages.

Colleagues consider her an expert on the use of computers and technology in the classroom. She was the motivation for bringing computers into each 7th grade classroom, beginning a "class within a class" model that places learning disabled students in the regular classroom, and a telecommunications project that links her class with other schools in the country.

"She is one of the movers and shakers in the educational community who gives the rest of us renewed faith that it is all worth it."

Ethel Marie Peterson

Guidance Coordinator
Central and Wilroads Gardens Elementary School
USD 443, Dodge City

A lifelong advocate of children, Ethel Marie Peterson is the coordinator of guidance in USD 443, Dodge City, and is an active counselor in Central and Wilroads Gardens Elementary Schools. She has worked for USD for 35 years, serving as a guidance counselor from 1976-1989, and as a fifth-grade
teacher at Sunnyside Elementary from 1958-1976.

She received bachelor's and master's degrees in education, and guidance credentials, all from Fort Hays State University.

Peterson is a life member of NEA, and also is a Kansas and Dodge City NEA member. Through six years representing Kansas on the National Board of Directors of NEA, and her work with the Democratic Party, she had a significant role in the establishment of the United States Department of Education in 1979.

While teaching at Sunnyside, Peterson noticed changes in the population and needs of the students. She returned to school for counseling certification and pioneered counselor education in the state, becoming one of the first two elementary counselors in the Dodge City Public Schools.

Today her colleagues note her continued sensitivity in meeting Challenges-by learning more about the rich cultural diversity in her community and by reaching out to affirm and show respect to children and parents with varied cultural backgrounds.

Peterson said her pledge to herself each day is, "Today I will look a child in the eye; I will listen to that child; I will hear that child."

Alana Kay Sewell

Third Grade Teacher
Southwest Elementary School
USD 382, Pratt

One quote in Alana Kay Sewell's Master Teacher nomination notebook reads, "A great teacher never strives to explain his vision - he simply invites you to stand beside him and see for yourself."

As third grade teacher at Southwest Elementary School in Pratt, Sewell's quiet teaching style aims to guide and lead her students rather than to place herself on center stage. A parent of two of Sewell's students, Pat Schwartz describes Sewell's classroom as an environment "in which the children feel valued, disciplined, but not stifled." She creates that atmosphere through a variety of activities including VIP bulletin boards which spotlight a student every week and inviting students out of the cafeteria to spend a lunch hour with her.

She received bachelor's and Pratt master's degrees in education from Wichita State University. Employed by the Pratt school district since 1972, Sewell taught third grade at Haskins Elementary School before beginning at Southwest in 1987.

Active in the KNEA and NEA, Sewell was named the Southwest Elementary and USD 382 Teacher of the Year this year. She also has served as president of the Pratt Jaycee Jaynes and the Beta Psi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma. Her community activities reach all groups on the Pratt Fair Board, 4H, Special Olympics, and church education programs.

Even with these extracurricular activities a colleague noted that Sewell, wife and mother of two boys, "keeps the home, sweet home" with her quiet, but organized action.

Joyce Ann Sinn

Ninth Grade English Teacher
Fort Scott High School
USD 234, Fort Scott

Week nights may find Joyce Ann Sinn at a 4-H project meeting or at a freshman skit practice, while Saturdays she might rise at 4 a.m. to scrape the frost off van windows to take a group of debaters to a tournament. The ninth grade English teacher at Fort Scott High School believes students at the high school level need the influence of a positive role model and the opportunity to interact with caring, concerned adults.

Sinn received a bachelor of science in education from Emporia State University and has done additional graduate work at the Kansas University Regent's Center and Pittsburg State University.

She has taught English, speech, debate and forensics at Fort Scott High School since 1981, and taught in the Shawnee Mission School District from 1975-1981. She has been recognized as a National Forensic League Diamond Key Coach, and received a ten-year recognition pin as 4-H project leader.

When Kelli Morrill was a first-year teacher and first-year debate coach at Fort Scott, Sinn as the retiring debate coach signed on to assist her. "She spent endless hours during August before school started working with me to prepare me for the first semester of debate... She promised me that as a first-year teacher she would not let me fail; as a matter of fact, she hardly even let me become frustrated," said Morrill.

Former student and current teacher Bobbi Spurgeon Thomas' self-concept and life were changed by Sinn. "Coming from a dysfunctional family, I was not encouraged to set high goals or pursue higher education. Ms. Sinn gave me the support that was, more frequently than not, missing at home."