WICHITA – Samantha “Sam” Neill, an English language arts teacher at Buhler High School, Buhler Unified School District 313, was named the 2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year on Saturday, Nov. 18, during a special ceremony in Wichita.
Kansas Commissioner of Education Randy Watson made the announcement at a gathering of 480 people during the Kansas Teacher of the Year Banquet at the Marriott Hotel, 9100 E. Corporate Hills Drive, in Wichita.
“I am very excited to present the 2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year award to Samantha,” Watson said. “Samantha exemplifies all that is great about Kansas’ education and the teaching profession. She possesses the courage to tackle hard challenges, and she has an innovative spirit that is infectious and deeply rooted in the need to ensure each of her students becomes successful. Samantha is a leader, not only in her classroom, but throughout the school and community. Congratulations to Samantha, our 2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year.”
Neill was named the 2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year from a field of eight finalists.
Throughout the coming year, all of the finalists will work as a team to advocate for education and teaching.
Selected from a pool of more than 100 nominations, the 2018 finalists were: Gilbert R. Still Jr., a fourth-grade teacher at Northwest Elementary School in Dodge City (Dodge City USD 443); Bradley “Brad” W. Weaver, an elementary music teacher at Atchison Elementary School (Atchison USD 409); Jamie D. Manhart, a junior high and high school journalism teacher at Silver Lake Junior-Senior High School (Silver Lake USD 372); Jennifer L. Donovan, an elementary music teacher at Clear Creek Elementary School in Shawnee (De Soto USD 232); Angela “Angie” R. Powers, a high school English teacher at Olathe Northwest High School (Olathe USD 233); Megan E. Nagel, a sixth-grade English language arts and science teacher at Santa Fe 5/6 Center in Newton (Newton USD 373); and Sarah C. VenJohn, a high school mathematics teacher at Winfield High School (Winfield USD 465).
Neill has taught at Buhler High School for 15 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education in 2002 from Emporia State University. In 2008, Neill received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Wichita State University.
Neill is involved in several leadership roles and professional organizations.
“I have had the opportunity to see her develop as a teacher and then as a leader of teachers,” said Michael Ellegood, principal at Buhler High School. “Sam works extremely well with students and staff; she goes above and beyond on any task she is given. She is the ultimate team player. Her ability to meet kids where they are and then move them forward is outstanding. She takes many of our most challenging students and turns their difficult years at Buhler High School into their best years. She is a positive world changer for students and our school.”
Jenifer Purvis, vice president of human resources and chief learning officer for Security Benefit Corp., presented Neill with a $4,000 cash award
In addition, Neill will receive the Kansas Teacher of the Year Lifelong Learning Scholarship to attend participating universities free of charge as long as she continues teaching in Kansas, and The Hubbard Foundation Kansas Teacher of the Year Ambassadorship. The ambassadorship provides funds for travel and other necessary expenses incurred by the Kansas Teacher of the Year. Neill also will receive the use of a rental car from Enterprise Rent-a-Car for Kansas Teacher of the Year travel. Jostens Inc. also provided Neill with a Leader in Education ring.
All eight members of the 2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year team received a $2,000 cash award from Security Benefit and a red marble apple from the Master Teacher in Manhattan. In addition, each will receive Capturing Kids’ Hearts training from The Flippen Group, of College Station, Texas, and a one-year membership in the Kansas State Teachers of the Year organization.
The Teacher of the Year program has state and national competitions. The national program, presented by Voya Financial, is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers. The Kansas program is sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education.
Neill is now a candidate for National Teacher of the Year.
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