2012 Award Winners
2012 Kansas Master Teachers
* Special Award, ** Black Endowed Chair Recipient
Seeing students as individuals hallmark of 2012 Kansas Master Teachers
February 27, 2012
Teaching to each student’s needs and demonstrating a caring attitude are two traits that set the 2012 class of Kansas Master Teachers apart.
The 2012 class, announced today (Feb. 27, 2012), features two principals, two teachers in elementary classrooms, two in middle school and one in high school:
- Shelley Aistrup, principal of Northview Elementary School and College Hill Preschool in Manhattan;
- Cindy Ehrstein, eighth-grade language arts teacher at Andover Central Middle School;
- Sandra Gonsher, second-grade teacher at Sunrise Point Elementary School in Overland Park (Blue Valley district);
- Kendra Metz, seventh-grade reading and language arts teacher, South West Middle School in Lawrence;
- Katrina Paradis, English teacher at Salina Central High School;
- Jodi A. Testa, third-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Junction City (Geary County district); and
- Marc Woofter, principal of Comanche Intermediate Center in Dodge City.
Emporia State University established the Kansas Master Teacher awards in 1954. The awards are presented annually to teachers who have served the profession long and well and who also typify the outstanding qualities of earnest and conscientious teachers.
Since 1980, Bank of America has pledged more than $100,000 to permanently endow the Kansas Master Teacher awards. In 1984, the Black family of Broken Bow, Okla., established an endowed chair for Kansas Master Teachers. The fund provides a stipend to bring two Master Teachers to ESU for part of a semester. During this time, the teachers present to classes of education students.
The 2012 class will be honored on Wednesday, April 4, 2012, in Emporia. The schedule of events for the day includes a look back at teaching styles of the past at the one-room schoolhouse at ESU and lunch with ESU President Michael D. Shonrock.
The master teachers will present a seminar in Visser Hall 330 from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. on “Engaging Excellence Through Education.” The evening begins at 5:15 p.m. with social time outside Webb Hall in ESU’s Memorial Union. The dinner and awards presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. in Webb Hall.
Biographies below were included in the program for the year listed here and were current as of that time.
Northview Elementary School/College Hill Preschool
USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden
Students have always been the focus for Shelley Aistrup.
As a classroom teacher, Aistrup looked to her students’ individual characteristics and found resources that helped them.
“When I began fourth grade,” writes a former student, “ I was becoming depressed and disenchanted with my educational experience. Dr. Aistrup displayed a great understanding of my needs as a student by giving me material that truly challenged and excited me.”
A classmate, the former student recalled, worked best while standing up. “As this did not disrupt other students, Dr. Aistrup allowed him to stand and learn in the way that was most beneficial for him.”
As a building administrator for both Northview Elementary School and College Hill Preschool in Manhattan, Aistrup inspires teachers and staff to strive for excellence in themselves while remaining focused on their students.
“She guides and teaches through example,” writes a colleague. “She is an integral part of many committees at school and in the community, always showing that giving to the profession does not end at the classroom.” Aistrup helps direct a before- and after-school program that serves more than 120 students from 7 to 8:15 a.m. and 3:35 to 6 p.m.
“The students participate in club-based activities that are focused on state standards and designed to raise student achievement,” Aistrup explained. “All students receive additional support to complete homework, increase reading comprehension and build math concepts.”
Aistrup’s belief in children’s future also drives her community service. She is an active member and past president of the Manhattan Breakfast Optimist Club, an organization she chose because of its focus on serving the community’s youth.
“One of the phrases from the Optimist Creed is especially important to me,” said Aistrup. “‘To think only the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.’”
Aistrup’s optimism has brought success in projects to increase technology in the classrooms of her schools as well as the project of which she is most proud — creating a school library at College Hill Preschool.
A graduate of Maryville (Mo.) High School, Aistrup earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Fort Hays State University, a master’s degree in instructional systems technology from Indiana University in Bloomington and her Ed.D. in educational leadership from Kansas State University.
Eighth-Grade Language Arts Teacher
Andover Central Middle School
USD 385 Andover
The impact Cindy Ehrstein has on her students lasts long after they leave her eighth-grade classroom.
“Mrs. Ehrstein treats you like you are family,” wrote a former student. “Still to this day, whenever I see her, she will come up to me and say hi and ask how I’ve been. She’s a great person with an overall good heart.”
Ehrstein teaches language arts both in the regular classroom and a special education inclusion class along with Andover’s eighth grade resource teacher. Wrote one mother of a special-needs student: “Mrs. Ehrstein was one of the few teachers who actually wanted to make a difference in the education of my child. For the first time, (he) believed in himself and wanted to succeed. Mrs. Ehrstein gave that gift to my child as I’m sure she has given that gift to many children.”
For Ehrstein, the students come first and are her inspiration.
“Every day I, as a teacher, have the opportunity to inspire and make a difference in the life of a child, and every minute of that day can present itself with a teachable moment,” she wrote.
One parent noted that during a particularly difficult school year when Ehrstein dealt with a death in her family, when asked why she missed few days of school, the answer was “Oh, I miss the kids if I am gone very long.”
“It was obvious by that statement that it is more than a job to her,” the mother wrote. “It is part of her identity. She isn’t just a teacher. She has a relationship with these kids.”
Ehrstein applies the same philosophy in all aspects of her life, whether it is sponsoring extracurricular organizations, being the “team mom” for her children’s sports teams or leading youth groups and teaching Sunday school in her church.
“What better gift to give a student from a teacher than to impact their life?” wrote a fellow church worker.
A graduate of Pretty Prairie High School, Ehrstein earned her bachelor’s degree in education with a minor in English from Tabor College, a master’s degree in instruction design and technology and an ESOL endorsement from Emporia State University and has earned continuing education hours from Friends University, Kansas State University, Butler County Community College and Wichita State University.
Sandra Lynn Gonsher
Sunrise Point Elementary
USD 229 Blue Valley
Sandy doesn’t just teach children, she touches their lives,” writes Deneise McGowan, a teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages and fellow teacher at Sunrise Point Elementary School in Overland Park.
McGowan tells the story of a student, now in high school in Texas, who had Gonsher in second grade. He called to tell Gonsher that he was on track to graduate from high school and planned to graduate from college — both firsts in his family.
“He also told her … he hasn’t forgotten how much she cared about him.”
The care Gonsher shows her students extends to finding creative activities to help their learning. Every year, she teaches her students to play chess. She develops individual spelling tests with words like “penultimate,” ‘obstreperous” and “equanimity.” The students study master artists throughout the year. Their writing journals and exercises turn into an author celebration at the end of the year.
“I teach every subject through the lens of an artist/scientist,” said Gonsher. “Creativity plays a major role in the product outcomes. Poetry, classical music, performance and visual art enhance and impact student learning while preparing students for success in the innovation economy they are a part of.”
Writes Alison Paddock, a third-grade teacher at Sunrise Point, “Sandy is a born teacher. She couldn’t be anything else. Some people just ARE their profession. Sandy is and will always be, first and foremost, a teacher.”
Gonsher’s teaching methods touch both her students and their parents.
“I think the most important things I learned were to always love learning new things and to always be the best person that I can be,” wrote a former student, now in fifth grade.
Finally, from a parent who teaches at a different school: “To have been taught by Mrs. Gonsher is to be changed as a learner. To be a parent of a child taught by Mrs. Gonsher is to be a changed parent.”
Gonsher earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from University of Missouri-Kansas City and has earned continuing education credit from Baker University and Graceland University.
Seventh-Grade Reading and Language Arts Teacher
Southwest Middle School
USD 497 Lawrence
"From the first day of school to the last, my mission is to let my students know that I believe in them and that they are worthy of love and capable in every sense of the word,” said Kendra Metz.
The key, according to Metz’s former students, colleagues and parents, is to find each student’s unique needs, take an interest in students outside the classroom and use inventive projects to expand their learning and give back to their community.
Metz regularly attends students’ birthday parties and other special occasions. The class reads a book together then heads to the movie theater to see the film made from the book. And the entire class creates an Italian restaurant as a fundraiser and educational lesson.
For the Italian restaurant, the students apply and interview for jobs, work together to make homemade pasta, take reservations and serve more than 200 guests in two hours. The money raised is used for special projects such as books for at-risk readers or class trips for other students. The project is designed to “pay it forward” to other students to teach the value of giving.
“I have so many memories of Kendra’s incredible teaching,” writes a former colleague. “Kendra stopping individual kids on their way in or out just to check in to see how they were doing. Kendra covered in flour while orchestrating yet another of her famous pasta-making days in preparation for the Italian restaurant.”
The lessons learned in Metz’s classroom continue for years.
“In Mrs. Metz’s classroom, each student was able to express him or herself,” writes a former sixth-grade student now in high school. “She is an accepting and inspiring person and every one of her pupils flourishes under her wing. … I always felt comfortable talking to Mrs. Metz and was able to show my true colors in her classroom.”
For Metz, those comments are high praise.
“If I can help my students find their voice and feel comfortable in their own skin,” Metz said, “if I can show them the humor, beauty and love in the world, then maybe they will contribute to society in their own turn.”
A graduate of Lawrence High School, Metz earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Washburn University, a master’s degree in education from Baker University and her English as a Second Language licensure from Kansas State University.
Salina Central High School
USD 305 Salina
Katrina Paradis is following in the footsteps of a teacher who made a difference in her own life.
“My first-grade teacher and principal of Holy Name Catholic School was Sister Connie Beiriger,” said Paradis, “and I was her go-to girl to assist my classmates.… Sister Connie expected us to accept our classmates unconditionally. She instilled in us the idea that all students can learn and should be given the opportunity to do so without judgment and without restrictions.”
Paradis creates a classroom that is fun and pushes students of all abilities to improve. Her students create their own Usher homes while studying “Fall of the House of Usher” during Gothic literature. They research and write letters to the editor for publication and use technology like Animoto, Glogster and Prezi for projects.
Exposing students to art and literature also is important to Paradis. Young adult novelist Chris Crutcher has conducted a two-day writing workshop. Hip-hop artist Cash Hollistah, Paradis’ former student, analyzed rap music with students and challenged them to write their own raps.
According to a former student, “Every day was an exciting adventure of literature, essays, discussions and projects. The atmosphere in her classroom matches her personality: bright, energetic and colorful yet relaxed and educational all at the same time.”
Wrote a colleague, “Her caring attitude extends out of the classroom in the way she supports students in all of their activities.”
One former student credits Paradis with helping him through his freshman year. He was taking a class from Paradis that was sophomore level, and he’d lost his brother in a tragic accident shortly before the start of school.
“Her zeal for life, her loving attitude and her genuine remarks to me about my situation made that year much more navigable,” he wrote. “And with her encouragement, I was able to grow as a person as well as a student.”
A graduate of Shawnee Mission West High School, Paradis earned her bachelor’s degree in education from The University of Kansas and her master’s of education from Kansas State University.
Jodi A. Testa
Lincoln Elementary School, Junction City
USD 475 Geary County
For Jodi Testa, teaching permeates all aspects of her life.
“I am a teacher, a future administrator, a parent, a community member and a civic leader,” Testa said. “Therefore I educate citizens throughout most of the day regardless of the role I am fulfilling.”
In her third-grade classroom, Testa encourages her students to develop the classroom rules, organizes weekly class meetings in which students solve problems they perceive in the classroom and in their school and finds ways to work with each individual student and get to know them.
Wrote one set of parents: “Reading and science are blended into a cooking event; math becomes an art project; social studies, a field trip.”
Their daughter recalled coming into Testa’s first-grade classroom developmentally behind her classmates. By second grade, she was going to enrichment with gifted students and eventually was placed in the gifted program.
“Mrs. Testa was the turning point in my education, and I credit her with bringing me from the bottom of my class to the top,” wrote the young woman now in college.
One former student recalled his dread of the school’s Halloween celebration, which allowed students to wear costumes at the end of the day. This student’s family chooses not to celebrate Halloween.
“Mrs. Testa explained to my classmates why I did not have a costume and then allowed me to share what my family and church does during the fall. It was fun and the students learned why I was different but did not treat me different. Mrs. Testa has a way to make all of her students feel special, no matter the circumstances.”
A graduate of LeRoy High School, Testa was named a 2011 Kansas Regional Teacher of the Year. She earned an associate’s degree from Cowley County Community College, her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Kansas Newman College, completed the dual language program at Kansas State University and is working toward her master’s degree in education leadership at Kansas State.
Comanche Intermediate Center
USD 443 Dodge City
"I believe that when children know we care about them (and truly care about them), they will achieve beyond our wildest expectations,” said Marc Woofter.
The more than 600 students at Comanche Intermediate Center in Dodge City are reminded every morning that Woofter, their principal, cares for them.
“Marc stands at the door of his school each day, welcome his over 600 students by name as they enter,” writes a colleague. “Whenever possible, Marc attends the Dodge City Recreation Commission’s games and activities in which his students participate. His attendance at such activities tells his students he truly cares about them.”
For Woofter, actions speak louder than words.
“Telling students that we care about them is a great start,” he said, “but to be effective we must show them. We must take a genuine interest in what they do in and out of school. We have the opportunity to do this every day.”
That relationship with Woofter makes a lasting impression.
“There were days when I felt like I didn’t belong to any ‘group’ of kids in my class; because I did not have the best shoes or the biggest house — but Mr. Woofter treated us all equally,” writes a former fifth-grade student who now is a teacher in Woofter’s building. “His optimism was contagious and he made us all feel as if it didn’t matter who we were, who our parents were, what we have or didn’t have — we ALL mattered.”
Although Woofter is recognized by colleagues and former students for all that he gives, he is quick to point out just what he receives in return.
“Spending my life as a principal, educating children is providing a full life filled with unimaginable joy.”
A graduate of Kinsley High School, Woofter earned an associate degree from Dodge City Community College, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from St. Mary of the Plains College and a master’s degree in administration from Fort Hays State University.