2020 Kansas Master Teacher Justin Heeke
Seventh-Grade Physical Education Teacher
Comanche Middle School
USD 443 Dodge City
Electrician. Electrical lineman. Personal trainer. Exercise physiologist. Substitute teacher. Paraprofessional. Teacher. Coach. Mentor.
“In some jobs I worked with my hands. In other jobs I have worked more with my mind. Both methods have taught me different things about the world and I bring those lessons to the classroom every day.”
Entering teaching in his early 30s, he later mentored a student teacher who, likewise, was in her 30s. On her first day, “He told me he shows the kids respect as long as they respect him. He connected with each student on a different level and he met them where they were. I saw these students blossom in ways that they may not have in any other setting.”
“I show them I value what they have to say. I do my best to make them feel like they are the most important person I am talking to in that moment,” Heeke states. Whether its taking time to chat with former students and colleagues or shouting support to a student in a marching band during a performance, Heeke says sometimes he does “nothing other than be present for that student.”
A student recovering from trauma entered her new school shaken and unsure. With Heeke’s guidance, she was “able to borrow a little of her teacher’s confidence,” writes her parents. Now the former student sings at festivals, fairs and concerts while considering medical school. “She wants to be a helper liker her kind and caring teacher. She needed only to see in herself what this amazing teacher saw in her – unlimited potential!”
Heeke earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Kansas State University in 2008. In 2012, he earned his teaching certificate from Newman University. He has taught in Dodge City since 2013 and was a 2015 Kansas Horizon Award Winner.
“Real world experience made me a better teacher. Real world learning makes for better students,” Heeke states. “I will continue to adapting to the world and helping my students find their place in it.”