CapFed Best News: Seven Shawnee County educators were nominees for Kansas Teacher of the Year

Rafael Garcia
Topeka Capital-Journal
Seven Shawnee County educators were nominees for the 2022 Kansas Teacher of the Year award, including Kristen Anderson, North Fairview Elementary School; Keisha Cross, Ross Elementary School; Katie Dinkel, Tecumseh North Elementary School; Sarah Wells, Pauline Central Primary School; Eric Bradshaw, Topeka High School; Winston Heilman, Washburn Rural Middle School; and Helen (Lisa) Martinez, Seaman High School. Martinez was also announced as one of two finalists for the region.

Seven Shawnee County educators were honored Sunday afternoon as nominees, and one as a finalist, for the 2022 Kansas Teacher of the Year.

The Kansas State Department of Education hosted four virtual ceremonies over the weekend to honor 138 Teacher of the Year nominees from each of the four regions, which correlate with Kansas' four congressional districts.

Among the 39 teachers nominated for region 2, four elementary teachers and three secondary teachers were chosen as nominees. They include the following:

  • Kristen Anderson, North Fairview Elementary School, Seaman USD 345.
  • Keisha Cross, Ross Elementary School, Topeka USD 501.
  • Katie Dinkel, Tecumseh North Elementary School, Shawnee Heights USD 450.
  • Sarah Wells, Pauline Central Primary School, Auburn-Washburn USD 437.
  • Eric Bradshaw, Topeka High School, Topeka USD 501.
  • Winston Heilman, Washburn Rural Middle School, Auburn-Washburn USD 437.
  • Helen (Lisa) Martinez, Seaman High School, Seaman USD 345.

Stacey Bell, instructional director for USD 450, introduced the awards presentation Sunday for region 2.

"These teachers are important in the lives of Kansas children, in pre-k through 12th grade," Bell said. "They have the opportunity to share their passion each and every day. They expect performance, and they receive it.

"They light fires of curiosity, and ignite love of reading and serving others and caring for planet Earth. These teachers are proof that who a teacher is is much more important than what they teach."

More: These Seaman High students' artwork is being recognized nationally

Randy Watson, state commissioner of education, hailed the nominees' efforts to continue teaching in one of the most difficult years for education. He said nominees from previous years were critical to crafting the state education department's continuous learning guidance this past year.

"The state board and I want you to know that we see you, and we've seen you from the beginning," he said. "You have not done that work without us knowing the strain that it has put on all of you. Throughout this pandemic, Kansas education could not have remained going in the way that it has without you."

At each of the four ceremonies over the weekend, the Kansas Department of Education announced three elementary and three secondary semifinalists, as well as one finalist from each education level. Shawnee Heights USD 450's Katie Dinkel was selected as a region 2 elementary semifinalist, while Seaman USD 345's Lisa Martinez was chosen as the secondary finalist.

Martinez thanked her family, students and colleagues for pushing her to be better, and she encouraged other nominees to continually look to how they can support marginalized and minority students in their communities.

"In public education today, it is imperative to promote positive culture and climate within our schools, while empowering our minority students to use their voices," Martinez said.

Helen (Lisa) Martinez, Seaman High School

Martinez has been an outspoken advocate for students pushing to change her school district's name, which currently honors district pioneer and leader in the Topeka Ku Klux Klan Fred Seaman.

In September, finalists from each of the state's regions will gather for an awards banquet in Wichita, where KSDE will announce the 2022 Kansas Teacher of the Year, who will serve as an ambassador for Kansas education.

Kansas' incumbent Teacher of the Year, Tabatha Rasproy, is also the incumbent 2020 National Teacher of the Year. A change to Kansas' nomination timeline meant no teacher was selected as the 2021 Kansas Teacher of the Year.