2018 Award Winners
2018 Kansas Master Teachers
* Special Award, ** Black Endowed Chair Recipient
2018 Class of Kansas Master Teachers Announced
March 6, 2018
Representing nearly 160 years of classroom experience, members of the 2018 class of Kansas Master Teachers were announced today. The seven teachers chosen for this annual award are:
- Connstance Allmond, high incident/intellectual disability teacher at El Dorado Middle School in El Dorado;
- Deanna K. Burton, social studies teacher at Susan B. Anthony Middle School in Manhattan;
- Abby Cornelius, library media specialist at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park;
- Todd Flory, fourth-grade teacher at Wheatland Elementary School in Andover;
- Chitra Harris, science teacher for Wichita South High School;
- Matthew Irby, science teacher at Emporia High School; and
- Kimberly S. Schneweis, visual art teacher at Hays Middle School.
Through the support of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, each Master Teacher will be presented with a check for $1000.
The recipients were selected by a nine-member committee including representatives from the Kansas Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, Kansas Association of Elementary School Principals, Kansas Association of School Boards, Kansas Association of Secondary School Principals, Kansas National Education Association, Kansas State Board of Education, ESU’s Interdisciplinary Secondary Education Alliance, and the 2017 Kansas Master Teacher class.
The 2018 Master Teachers will be honored on Master Teacher Day to be held Wednesday, April 4 at Emporia State University. On that day, as part of several recognition activities, 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 banquet and award ceremony at 6:30 p.m. in Webb Hall.
Tickets for the dinner cost $17, and reservations are required by Wednesday, March 28.
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, 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 one week. During this time, the teachers present to classes of education students.
Seminar for Pre-Service Teachers
The 2018 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 2018 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 2019 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.
High Incident / Intellectual Disability Teacher
El Dorado Middle School
USD 490 El Dorado
“I do not believe in limiting student achievement,” states Connstance Allmond. “‘Can’t’ is not a word I want to hear.”
An intellectual disability teacher for Grades 6-8, Allmond teaches at El Dorado Middle School, where she has worked for nearly 20 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Emporia State University in 1999 and a master’s in education from Emporia State in 2002.
“Since all of my students are at a different level intellectually, I design my lessons to meet them where they are [then lead them] beyond what they first believe is possible,” Allmond said.
When she recognized most of her students lacked basic cooking skills due to their parents’ concerns about safety, Allmond set a goal of building their skills to the point they could make their own birthday cakes. The goal was reached, but the learning didn’t stop with birthday cakes. She now has students who plan, prepare, and clean up after an entire Thanksgiving feast feeding more than 50 people.
Other goals include making sure her students gain basic math skills, can manage a bank account, go shopping, and pay bills. She also wants them to get the point of not just being able to read but have a love of reading.
A colleague observed that Allmond impacts student achievement by setting goals that are “lofty yet attainable.” According to a parent, Allmond’s recipe for success, is “high expectations, patience, and love.”
A student, who was told by a previous teacher she would never read a book, was able to read to her mother for the first time. Allmond said, “It was moving to see the emotions play across Mom’s face while her daughter was reading aloud. By the time the daughter finished, Mom burst into tears of joy and embraced her daughter.”
Another student shared, “Mrs. Allmond is a great teacher. She gives me a weighted blanket when schoolwork is hard. She gives me hugs when I cry. Now I read at home. I play games at home. Mrs. Allmond is the best in the world.”
Deanna K. Burton
Social Studies Teacher
Susan B. Anthony Middle School
USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden
Whether she’s cooking food from a different culture for her class, directing the school play, or simply complimenting a student’s shoes, Deanna Burton knows the importance of showing her students they are valued as individuals.
“(Teachers) never know what we may say, however small, that can make a world of difference in a child’s life,” states Burton.
Burton earned a bachelor’s in education from Emporia State University in 1976 and a master’s in elementary education in 1986 from Wichita State University. She began her career in 1976 as a Title I reading teacher in Grades 1-8 at Canton-Galva Elementary and Middle School. Subsequently, she taught in Ellsworth, Hesston, Hutchinson, Herington, and Clay Center. In 2006, she began teaching seventh-grade language arts and social studies at Susan B. Anthony Middle School in Manhattan.
“She infuses math, reading, science and technology, FACS, art, music and movement into her social studies classroom,” writes a colleague. Her approach to teaching is described by one of her students as being “very hands-on/minds-on.” Burton characterizes her own classroom as “well managed constructive chaos.”
Burton strives to brings a global perspective into her teaching, whether it is helping students use isosceles triangles to figure out how to build a pagoda roof, or leading a discussion on the pros and cons of closing a 54-mile stretch through a rain forest to enable vehicles to drive from Alaska to the tip of South America.
“Deanna models a joyful love of learning, the power of grit as a necessary ingredient when striving for high standards, respect and responsibility,” writes a colleague. While guiding 60 students through a play production on an annual basis, “Deanna models leadership and grace as she works for hours after school to shape the cast to their personal best level.”
A parent states, “Her constant compassion for all of our students is one of her biggest strengths. After 42 years of an exciting teaching journey, she continues to be innovative, energetic, and interactive with young people, displaying ideas like a new, yet seasoned educator.”
Library Media Specialist
Blue Valley North High School
USD 229 Blue Valley
“More goats, fewer sheep,” is the teaching philosophy of Abby Cornelius.
She explains the education system can create a culture where students are told what to do, how to do it, to keep their heads down, and follow the herd – like sheep. She wants them to be a different animal altogether, “Goats wander around investigating for food and climbing atop their shelter, they interact with the world by exhibiting natural curiosity, and they have pokey horns that they use to touch and challenge things and others.”
As a library media specialist, Cornelius embodies that interactivity and spirit of adventure.
Taking three groups of students who may not otherwise interact, Cornelius had them work together to create super-powered characters called ‘plushies.’ “With one project, she was able to empower students with disabilities, transform the way our achievement-driven students viewed success, and facilitate empathy-building between students who might not have spoken to one another within our four walls.”
“Her library is a beehive of activity,” writes a parent. “It is the very heart and soul of our school, filled to the rafters at all hours of the day where kids experiment, develop, and create.” In 2009, her efforts earned Blue Valley North the American Association of School Libraries’ National School Library Media Program of the Year Award.
Cornelius began her career in 2001 as a seventh-grade math teacher in Grandview, Missouri after completing a bachelor’s degree in math and secondary education from Washington University in St. Louis. In 2004, she earned a master’s in library science from Emporia State University and joined Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park as a library media specialist in 2006. In 2008, she became a nationally board certified teacher, which she renewed in 2017. In 2011, Cornelius earned a second master’s degree from Emporia State in instructional design and technology.
“I have come to learn that Abby is truly a superhero,” writes a colleague. “I am constantly in awe of her energy, her work ethic, and her relentless commitment to ensure all learners succeed.”
Wheatland Elementary School
USD 385 Andover
“I strive to create academic risk-takers in my classroom,” states Todd Flory. “We do our students a disservice if all we teach them…is what to learn instead of how to learn.”
After graduating in 2004 with a bachelor’s in communications from Bethel College, Flory volunteered for two years in Chicago and Washington, DC, where he saw how education – or the lack of it – affects a person’s life. He returned to Kansas to earn his bachelor’s in elementary education from McPherson College in 2010, and a master’s in instructional technology from Fort Hays State University in 2016.
As a fourth-grade teacher beginning work at Wheatland Elementary in 2012, it did not take long for him to establish himself as a leader at the building, district and state levels. “He goes not just the extra mile for education and creating teacher leaders, but also the extra marathon,” writes a colleague.
A parent states, “(He) embodies all of the qualities one looks for in an exemplary teacher and is a perfect representative of everything that is great in Kansas classrooms and schools.”
In 2017, he developed a digital citizenship project where students investigated fake news and determined how they can discern information for authenticity. This project was featured on the Microsoft Education website, in a National Public Radio story, and his students were interviewed by a television network in Japan.
Flory believes we need to be creating global citizens in a global classroom. His notable Skype Around the World Day allows students to connect via digital video (Skype) to classrooms around the world. Last year, his students shared information about Kansas and gathered authentic experiences virtually as they visited 18 countries and all seven continents. Students take notes in their “passports” and create a presentation about their experience.
“It’s important for students to interact with people who may look and sound differently than them, and whose school is different from our school. It helps empathy and understanding,” Flory stated.
“I believe that quality education is the world’s best hope for peace, equality, and justice.”
Wichita High School South
USD 259 Wichita
Chitra Harris believes education should transcend national borders. Combining teaching philosophies from the East and West, she incorporates hands-on, real world experiences into her classroom to promote new ways of thinking.
In 2007, Harris was challenged by her district to create a course in forensic science. There were no textbooks available or guidelines for skills and competencies. Harris took on the challenge and has had nothing but success.
“The excitement of discovering facts for themselves instead of having it explained to them is key in learning and also in retaining what they have learned,” said Harris.
Inquiry-based activities include labs on blood spatter analysis, the use of a comparison microscope, and ballistics – the latter a challenge when zero-tolerance policies prohibit guns or bullets in the school. Harris has now obtained permission – and grant funding – to introduce ballistics kits, along with trajectory measuring lasers and other tools into her classroom.
When her students begged to put their skills to the test by solving a ‘real crime,’ Harris used foam spray, soil, and maggots to turn a plastic Halloween skeleton into what appeared to be a decomposing body.
A colleague describes Harris as a ‘trail blazer.’ “In my 40+ years in education I have never seen a teacher get as excited about any subject,” she writes. “(She) created her own curriculum and has been extremely willing to share it with other teachers.”
Harris earned two bachelor’s degrees – one in science, one in education – from Bangalore University in 1976 and 1977, and a master’s in education from Southwestern College in 2010. She was a high school science teacher from 1983 to 2003 in Chennai, India and in 2004 began teaching science at Wichita South High School and remains today.
“It is not easy for an immigrant to assimilate in a new culture at the age Chitra and her family relocated to the United States,” a colleague writes. “Yet, she not only integrates, but thrives and inspires through her inner brilliance and creative teaching skills. Chitra symbolizes the epitome of the American Dream.”
Emporia High School
USD 253 Emporia
Despite growing up with educator parents who are still teaching today, Matthew Irby thought he would go into a health-related field, getting a bachelor’s degree in science. After admitting to himself he was not passionate about this area, he reflected on how fulfilled his parents were by their jobs.
That reflection, coupled with his enjoyment of coaching kids through the local rec center, provided Irby the impetus to make a change: he went back to school to get a degree in education. In this, he has found his passion.
“If I’m not finding hands-on resources to make the learning memorable and meaningful, I’m doing a disservice to my students and not giving them the true experience of what science is: trying to show and explain the processes which make life possible and remarkable,” Irby states.
Irby began teaching in 2004 after earning two bachelor’s degrees from Emporia State University. He earned his master’s in educational administration from Emporia State in 2013. He has spent his career at Emporia High School teaching a variety of science courses such as genetics, biomedical innovation, zoology, biology, and microbiology.
Irby structures his lessons to cause students to experience the wonder of science. Rather than just hearing classroom lectures, watching videos, or reading textbooks, he uses hands-on learning experiences, such as extracting pigments from plants to witness photosynthesis or using thermocyclers to analyze DNA. Irby’s network of local professionals enables students to job shadow and discover jobs and careers previously unknown to them.
His teaching philosophy is simple: students may have different backgrounds, but their needs are mostly the same. Embracing new challenges and having the desire to become a better teacher is what motivates him.
“He is a visionary, a motivator, and a great role model,” writes an administrator about Irby. Another colleague describes him as a “student individualizer, educational entrepreneur, and educational humorist.”
A former student, now a pre-pharmacy student in college, said his classes covered subjects at a college level, “I was able to enter freshman year with experience and confidence.”
Kimberly S. Schneweis
Visual Art Teacher
Hays Middle School
USD 489 Hays
As an art teacher, Kimberly Schneweis strives to reveal the connections between art and life to her students. When visual art is incorporated into other subject areas, students make connections. And by creating art, students connect with their own experiences and feelings. Schneweis states, “Visual art is often thought of as an ‘extra’ when it could serve as the connector that ties everything else together.”
In her classroom, it all starts with the creation of something new. Because her middle school students are in between childhood and becoming adults, she gives them opportunities to work on projects that allow them to express frustration.
For one such project, Schneweis goes beyond instructing students on artistic technique and asks her students to write an artist’s statement – a philosophy or opinion about what compelled them to create the image. These statements often reveal family struggles, self-image issues, or problems with ownership over their lives.
Schneweis earned a bachelor’s degree in art education in 1984 and a master’s in educational administration in 2001, both from Fort Hays State University. She began her teaching career as an elementary art teacher in USD 489 Hays in 1989 and has been in the school district since then.
As Schneweis benefited from a mentor teacher in her early career, she gladly mentors student teachers – a total of 25 so far. “I always come away from each experience gaining a little perspective, or a new idea.”
Throughout her career as an art teacher, Schneweis has continually advocated for art education, both in her school and the wider community – fighting for student needs in board rooms, public arenas, and in the state capitol. “(Kim) stands up for what she believes,” writes an administrator, who was once one of Schneweis’s students.
“(She) often puts aside her own best interests for the cause of the greater good,” writes a colleague. “Kim knows how to get things done.”
Summarizing her 29 years in the classroom, Schneweis said, “I have never felt I was too experienced to learn something new.”