2016 Award Winners
2016 Kansas Master Teachers
* Special Award, ** Black Endowed Chair Recipient
2016 Class of Kansas Master Teachers Announced
March 2, 2016
The seven members of the 2016 class of Kansas Master Teachers were announced today. The teachers chosen for this annual award are:
- Jessica Butte, science teacher at Hays High School in Hays;
- Nikki Chamberlain, chemistry teacher at Salina South High School in Salina;
- Adriane Falco, music educator at Stanley Elementary School in Overland Park;
- Keri Lauxman, English teacher at Lawrence High School;
- Raymond Linville, music teacher for grades 5 through 12 in Andover;
- Jenny Wilcox, seventh grade math teacher at Washburn Rural Middle School in Topeka; and
- Laura Woolfolk, English teacher at Dodge City High School.
This year, thanks to the generosity of Bank of America, each recipient will receive a $1000 professional development stipend as part of the award.
The recipients were selected by a committee including representatives from Kansas Association of Elementary School Principals, Kansas Association of Secondary School Principals, Kansas Parent Teacher Association, Kansas National Education Association, Kansas State Board of Education, Kappa Delta Pi Student Chapter, and the 2015 Kansas Master Teacher class.
The 2016 Master Teachers will be honored on Master Teacher Day to be held April 6 at Emporia State University. On that day, the teachers will present a seminar at 2:30 p.m. in the W.S. and E.C. Jones Conference Center in Visser Hall. The teachers will then be honored during a social hour at 5:45 p.m. in Webb Hall Lobby of Emporia State’s Memorial Union followed by the dinner awards program at 6:30 p.m. in Webb Hall.
Tickets for the dinner cost $17, and reservations are required by Wednesday, March 30.
Emporia State 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, Oklahoma, established an endowed chair for Kansas Master Teachers. The fund provides a stipend to bring two Master Teachers to Emporia State for part of a semester. During this time, the teachers present to classes of education students.
Seminar for Pre-Service Teachers
The 2016 Kansas Master Teachers held a seminar for education students in Visser Hall at Emporia State University, where future teachers had the opportunity to learn from the cream of the crop in the state. Among the topics addressed were meeting students’ individual needs, the dedication and commitment required as an educator, and continued professional development.
The 2016 Kansas Master Teachers were honored at a banquet in Emporia State University's Memorial Union. Tributes from colleagues, supervisors, former and current students were read before each of the 2016 Kansas Master Teacher addressed the audience, sharing anecdotes, philosophies, and their perspectives from serving in education.
Biographies below were included in the program for the year listed here and were current as of that time.
Hays High School
USD 489 Hays
“Hello, class – my name is Mrs. Butte and you are in chemistry. People that like chemistry are crazy, so to teach it, you have to be downright psycho. Hopefully we can be crazy together,” — so Jessica Butte greets her students the first day of class.
Craziness ensues as Butte combines innovation with students’ interests, abilities, and learning styles. While any teacher can present subject material, Butte says, it is more important for students to discover it on their own, and it is her job to empower them to “make mistakes, take the wrong path, and productively struggle to form their own understanding.”
Butte began teaching in 2004 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State University in physical science. She began her career teaching physics at Hays High School, and has taught 9th grade science, chemistry, and ESL at the high school and middle school.
Butte “knows and demonstrates that the way she learned as a high school student is no longer an option for today’s students,” explains one colleague. “She welcomes questions from students about the history of the earth, the history of the universe, and climate change, all while reinforcing consensus, mainstream science.”
Whether it is supporting a ping pong ball at the top of a tower made of spaghetti noodles and marshmallows, creating musical instruments to demonstrate sound waves, or creating model rollercoasters to measure kinetic and potential energy, her teaching style encourages exploration while maintaining a physically and emotionally safe place.
Throughout her tenure, she noticed the demographics in her classroom changing. In order to respond to these changes, Butte recognized the need to switch focus from what she was teaching to how she was teaching. This led her to an endorsement in English for Speakers of Other Languages, allowing her to assist her fellow teachers as well as her students.
Butte is not only involved in the classroom, but is also a sponsor of many activities and active in her community. She is the co-sponsor of National Honor Society, assistant coach for debate, GSA sponsor, and has been involved with Science Olympiad, scholars’ bowl, and forensics. On Wednesday nights you can find her at church, meeting with fourth graders to discuss morality and character.
As a lifelong acquaintance stated, “Jessica is genuine, what you see is what you get…. (she) is a team player who does not need a trophy or tiara, because her glory comes from a job well done.”
Salina South High School
USD 305 Salina
Nikki Chamberlain knows she has to make connections with students before she can get them to buy into learning chemistry.
“I teach kids, not content,” Chamberlain states.
Chamberlain received her bachelor’s in education in 2003 and a master’s of curriculum and instruction in 2007, both from Kansas State University. She is currently studying for an endorsement in building level leadership from Fort Hays State University. She has taught chemistry at Salina South High School since 2003.
Chamberlain understands while students may have diverse abilities and interests, they all have one thing in common, “Students have to see connections to their daily lives in the material we cover… From fireworks to climate change, chemistry can explain the phenomena that we encounter every day.”
While students in her class spend time making a chemical reaction happen faster, determining which food dyes are in use, they also have time to eat ice cream – after they have made it while testing freezing point depression. Her students explore chemical engineering through designing airbags for baby carriages, building rockets to determine ideal fuel to oxygen ratio, and designing safe hand warmers and cold packs.
In 2005, she started the Lab Chicks club. “I wanted to help inspire other women to love math and science as much as I do,” she said. Lab Chicks engages high school girls in science, exposes them to career fields they may not be aware of, and provides them with mentors. What started as a group of less than 15 students now has more than 70 members. In 2006, Lab Chicks organized its initial Girls in the Lab Day for girls in grades 4-8. This now annual event allows the younger girls to take part in inquiry-based activities and meet with female scientists and engineers. In 2007, Lab Chicks began a reading program and now visits K-1 classrooms to read books combining science and phonics.
Numerous letters of support praised Chamberlain for her enthusiasm for students and instruction, and documented her successes: a young woman with Asperger’s syndrome is a sophomore in college studying chemistry education, another is about to pursue a double major in chemical engineering and chemistry, another is to study biochemistry.
How does this happen? As one student stated, “I walked into her class as an apprehensive sophomore who had no plans for the future and will walk out of her class this May driven toward a career in pharmaceutical chemistry.”
“The most important lesson she teaches her students is that hard works pays off, a lesson for which she visibly sets the example.”
Stanley Elementary School
USD 229 Blue Valley
“It is my job to inspire,” says Adriane Falco.
And for Falco, providing an opportunity for every student to perform is part of that inspiration. To create these opportunities, she has written nine elementary stage musicals, complete with props, costumes, speaking parts, vocal solos, and incorporating the school choir.
“She doesn’t just teach us about music, she lets us express ourselves through music,” said one student.
Recently, a long-time teacher from the school died in her sleep. As a member of the school’s Crisis Team, Falco served as a relief teacher – consoling students and substituting for teachers when they needed to process emotions.
A current student wrote her account of that day, “The only thing I could think of doing is making her a song that everyone could remember her by and celebrate the admirable person she was. So I knew I had to go to Mrs. Falco for help in putting my poem to music.”
Falco earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Kansas State University in 2007 and a master’s degree in education from Avila University in 2010. In 2014, she earned her administrative building level licensure from Fort Hays State University. Her first professional teaching post began in 2007 in Blue Springs, MO. She began in her current position at Stanley Elementary School in Overland Park in 2010.
“I have witnessed quiet, shy children belting out a song as loud as their voices allow, and you can see how genuinely happy they are to be there,” said one colleague. “Equally amazing is the pride beaming from every student as they stand on stage and execute their individual role as if the show would fall apart without their contribution.”
In addition to participating in performances, Falco applies for and receives grants for every student in her building to attend a performing arts event – ballet, theater, or symphony. For a recent musical about America, Falco extended an invitation to family members of students who were veterans.
Knowing how much an audience can be moved by performances and art, she regularly volunteers the elementary choir to sing at a local retirement home and has students make valentine’s for patients at Children’s Mercy Hospital. She created, implemented, and manages logistics of an after-school program called BLAST – Big Learning After School Time – allowing students extracurricular time to explore everything from yoga to Legos.
A parent states, “Ms. Falco inspires her students to be not only the best of who they are, but to imagine beyond into a world of fantasy and wonder.”
Lawrence High School
USD 497 Lawrence
“I know what students experience in the classroom will influence the sense they make of their world,” states Keri Lauxman.
With “amazing energy and devotion to her students,” Lauxman employs everything from author visits to writing workshops with a bluegrass band member. To thank a guest speaker for discussing a novel which mirrors his experiences growing up in West Africa, Lauxman organized a dental hygiene drive to support a clinic where the speaker volunteers on medical missions.
Lauxman earned a bachelor’s from The University of Kansas in film before getting a bachelor’s in English and a teaching certificate from Washburn University. In 2010, she graduated with a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Peru State University. She began her career by teaching English at Olathe South High School and Chisholm Trail Middle School in 2006. She joined Lawrence High School in 2007.
Wanting to incorporate a therapy animal into her classroom, Lauxman proceeded through the necessary steps to introduce a therapy dog, Roxy, into the culture of the entire school. As an administrator says, “Roxy is pretty much the rock star of Lawrence High School!”
Lauxman keeps “a balance between educational equality and equity firmly in mind.” In working with a student with cerebral palsy, the father of the student said, because of his daughter’s physical disability, many students (and a few teachers) consider her disabled in all areas of her life. “Ms. Lauxman was the first teacher to actively engage with (her) and learned very quickly that there was nothing in her nature which would limit her.”
With a reputation as being a risk taker and innovator, Lauxman collaborated with a university chemical and petroleum engineering professor and “flipped” a classroom. The two instructors designed a cross-curricular activity emphasizing the benefits of inquiry in learning to support a hands-on science-meets-English lesson.
Lauxman is a Boys & Girls Club committee member, Leadership Lawrence graduate, volunteer for the Lawrence Community Shelter, and worked with students in the Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program. She founded the high school’s Habitat for Humanity club in part to have “students develop a strong sense of community spirit and a willingness to serve others.”
One colleague writes, “Keri is the complete package. She’s the consummate professional with a personal touch, a ready smile, and a quick sense of humor.”
“She just has this way of making everyone feel, not only comfortable in her class, but wanted. She wants everyone to be there and she wants everyone to learn, and it shows,” stated a current student.
L. Raymond Linville
Grades 5 through 12
USD 385 Andover
Ray Linville has an objective in teaching students how to perform music, “I hope they… experience the deserved pride from a job performed very well.”
“The process we have taken together… is what I value as important not the trophy at the end,” he states.
Linville graduated in 1988 with a bachelor’s of music education from The University of Kansas and earned his master’s in conducting from Southern Oregon University in 2005. He taught in Neodesha, Iola, Hesston, and Pratt before coming to Andover in 2001.
Providing instrumental instruction in grades 5-12 at five separate buildings with class sizes as high as 100-200 students, the students and bands under his direction continually receive superior rankings in competitions.
Linville takes rambunctious 10-year-olds, who think band will be an easy extracurricular activity and make their parents cringe during practice, and turns them into teenagers willing to wake up early for practice, volunteer time before school and community events, give up portions of summer, and – for one former student – qualify for master classes taught by Wynton Marsalis and Jon Lewis.
Described as “classroom trendsetter who generously shares his knowledge,” “exceptionally patient and kind,” and “dedicated, selfless, kind-hearted, funny,” Linville “knows his students both personally and musically in selecting music to match their strengths.” And, once every four years, he organizes and leads the band to perform at a national bowl game and parade. As one parent summed it up, he has the “patience of a saint.”
In the last 15 years, the band has increased from less than 50 to nearly 200 students – meaning 25% of all Andover High students are in the band. Encouraging leadership and collegiality, his influence is evident in the band’s chant before a marching performance: “What time is it? Band time! One family, one sound!”
The music program itself is a service to the community of Andover. Students perform at retirement homes, at the Veteran’s Day events, march in the Greater Andover Days parade, lead charity runs, and perform jazz in the park during the fall festival. Linville volunteers to perform Taps at military funerals when an active-duty musician is not available. He has honored veterans at 16 such events in the last three years.
“He taught me so much more than how to play with the correct intonation and the proper posture,” said one former student. “I didn’t cry when I graduated high school. I cried when I performed on stage for the last time under the guidance of one of the greatest teachers, role models, and friends of mine.”
Seventh Grade Math Teacher
Washburn Rural Middle School
USD 437 Auburn Washburn
“Students must know that I am on their side: someone who will help them, teach them, learn with them, joke with them, grow with them, and respect them,” says Jenny Wilcox.
Wilcox sees her instruction as the bridge between mastering elementary math skills to beginning to learn the abstract skills needed to be successful in high school math classes. “It is imperative that students understand the underlying concepts of why things work they way they do,” she explains.
Developing new ways to approach teaching interlocking patterns and puzzles is how she approaches math instruction. From a stained glass window project about parallel and perpendicular lines and design, to calculating camera angles used in films to determine forced perspective, to making sure the odds are ever in students’ favor in a multi-disciplinary unit, Wilcox doesn’t “settle for the same activity I used last year if it isn’t still the best way to teach or connect with my students this year.”
At school, “(She) started a coding club for students,” states her principal. “I’m not sure she asked permission, she saw a need, an interest, so now… students come early to work on computer coding.” A peer states, “I came in early just this week to see giggling kids chasing their blinking, computer driven machines rolling through the hallways.”
Wilcox graduated with a bachelor’s in education in 1996 and a master’s in education in 2000, both from Washburn University. She began teaching at Washburn Rural Middle School in 1997 and continues in the same job today, having approximately 2,000 students go through her classroom.
The connections Wilcox has made stretch throughout her community and church. From launching a family book club at her children’s school, to serving on site councils, volunteering at church, helping with Hands on Topeka, to fundraisers, Wilcox’s efforts can be seen everywhere.
But her “persistence and perseverance…makes her a master teacher.” A former student’s mother states her daughter now “has the confidence to work hard on all her subjects,” but that was not the case before being in Wilcox’s classroom.
“I am one of (her) miracle students,” said one student. “School has never been easy for me.” The student’s mother writes her daughter would say she was the “dumbest person in the class,” and was caught in a cycle of redoing assignments and asking for extra credit to pass subjects. The student said, “I would always freeze when I was called on. I was honestly scared to go to math. Mrs. Wilcox changed everything for me, she gave me hope. Hope that I could succeed, hope that I would make it to college, hope that I would make it in the world.”
Dodge City School
USD 443 Dodge City
“Teaching is more than lessons and test scores – to truly teach is to promote change and growth, and to fearlessly model the change and growth within yourself. It is to teach students to never, never, never quit,” says Laura Woolfolk.
Being an English teacher, debate coach, psychology instructor, and involved community member, Woolfolk’s teaching changes and adapts as technology evolves and makes experiences available for her students. Interviewing a Kansan living in Paris after the November shootings, Woolfolk encouraged students to practice the Socratic method before the Skype interview, so the students could benefit from active listening. In the end, the discussion with the Paris contact went from a scheduled 30 minutes to 90 minutes of original, thoughtful questions, ranging from the mood of Parisians to the fate of Syrian refugees.
Woolfolk attended Abilene Christian University and graduated from Newman University with a bachelor’s in education in 1994. In 2005, she earned an ESL certification from Fort Hays State University, and in 2012, completed a master’s in education leadership from Kansas State University. She has taught in Garden City, Dodge City, and at Dodge City Community College.
Whether it’s using meditation to interest students as they study the Transcendentalists in American literature or dancing to “Thriller” as a brain break, Woolfolk uses any method available to engage and challenge students to meet – and exceed – expectations.
Providing students with the ability to see the potential in themselves is key. A former student had dreams of college but no idea how to achieve that goal as a first-generation American with parents working in the local beef-packing plant. Woolfolk encouraged her to apply to the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMS). She did, and in April 2002, she was notified she was the first student from Dodge City and the only one from Southwest Kansas to be in the 2002 GMSP class of 1000 students across the U.S.
Woolfolk is passionate, whether it is campaigning for a school bond measure or school board member, leading students and their families on international trips, hosting foreign exchange students, volunteering to organize 5Ks, or teaching others how to be good digital citizens.
“Everything she does, she does with enormous passion, and it is contagious,” a former student states. It also may help that Woolfolk is described as “effortlessly hilarious.”
Echoing many supporters who share the sentiment of wanting to emulate her, one colleague summed it up best, “Laura is all things good. In life. In community. In school. In person.”